NEW PORT RICHEY
At 2:30 Monday afternoon, students and faculty members streamed out of their classrooms and onto the athletic fields at Bayonet Point Middle School. The attraction: the solar eclipse.
That this was something special was not lost on students like Kevin Esquivel and Andy Shaw, who donned filtered glasses and craned their necks upward as the cloudy sky turned a dusk-like hue.
"Its a really rare opportunity, a great experience," said Kevin, 12. "I'm surprised it's so small."
"It's pretty cool," said Andy, 11. "This is actually my first eclipse. The next eclipse won't be for at least 30 years."
The viewing came during a short time frame in the minutes before dismissal Monday. But faculty and administrators had been preparing for this since June.
At Bayonet Point Middle, one of two STEM/LATIC (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics/Learner Active Technology Infused Classroom) schools in Pasco County, the teachable moment was expanded into the days before.
Safety was a top priority, said principal Shelley Carrino, noting that the school had purchased 1,000 pairs of approved eyeglasses, figuring that about 850 would be doled out to students, faculty, bus drivers and parents who might want to stop in and take a peek.
Teachers planned interdisciplinary lessons across all subjects, utilizing a variety of technology so students could learn the how, what, where and why of the eclipse.
Some students took part in interactive lessons to simulate the phases of the moon and the eclipse, using light and styrofoam balls in science classes. Others created their own informational safety brochures. Language arts lessons focused on the myths and mythology related to the sun and the eclipse. Students in math classes compared the sizes of different stars, using equations.
"It's been pretty cool. You can't get a better teaching experience than this," said civics teacher David Suraci, who touched on the uncanny ability of the ancient Mayans to predict eclipses, while taking students on a virtual tour in his classroom of the Mayan ruins in Mexico.
And while technology might be all the rage, School Board member Cynthia Armstrong came out to show the kids how it was done old-school, bringing a pinhole camera she made herself.
"It's just wonderful," Armstrong said. "(The eclipse) just really fits into the curriculum of a STEM school."
"It's pretty awesome," said technology teacher Kate D'Avanzo, recalling how she watched a partial solar eclipse in her younger years. "We built pinhole viewers back then. We didn't have the fancy glasses."
Along with the glasses, students were able to take turns peering through a telescope equipped with a solar filter, brought by seventh-grade science teacher Joseph Marshall.
"This is great because it happens so rarely," Marshall said as students made their way to the school bus loop. "The next time this happens, these kids will be in their 40s."
Contact Michele Miller at [email protected] Follow @MicheleMiller52.