This is how Baldwin school district prepared its students for the solar eclipse


In anticipation of Monday’s solar eclipse, science teachers in the Baldwin school district prepared their students by creating an online family resource guide.

“To help transform this unique astronomical event into a rich and rewarding educational experience for families,” district superintendent Shari Camhi wrote in a message to families on April 3, “our teachers have created an online resource that includes a plethora of information and materials pertaining to the eclipse to use at home.”

Created a month ago and available on the district website, the guide had information about the eclipse for those of all ages, including guidelines for viewing it safely.

It was assembled by Dan Baxt, an earth science teacher at Baldwin High School; Dawn Thompson, an earth science teacher at Baldwin Middle School; Lynette O’Brien, who specializes in elementary science, technology, engineering, arts and math, or STEAM, education; and Teresa Leite, who teaches life and earth sciences at the middle school.

“At the high school, we started to hype up the eclipse long before the event,” Baxt wrote in an email.

“By building models demonstrating the mechanics of the event, making pinhole projectors, handing out eclipse glasses and just taking the day to dive into the science and wonder of the special day.”

The next total solar eclipse in New York won’t occur until 2079.

Consequently, on Monday, the school district adjusted its schedule, canceling a number of after-school activities, from team practices to Regents reviews to 10th period at the high school, so students could enjoy the spectacle.

The district did not hold any eclipse viewing events, but the Baldwin Public Library hosted a party, and invited attendees to become observers. (See Page 3 for their photos.)

Parts of northern New York were in the path of totality, and on Long Island, about 90 percent of the sun was obscured by the passing moon.

Thompson covered eclipses in her class during the fall, and revisited the lesson in recent weeks by focusing on eye safety and exactly what happens during an eclipse.

“My students were able to use a class set of solar glasses to observe the sun,” she wrote in an email. “Their reactions always bring a smile to my face: ‘Wow, that’s so cool, I’ve never seen the sun before.’”

O’Brien incorporated methods tailored to younger children.

“At the elementary level, it was important that learning objectives were easily tailored to different grade levels and integrated into different subject areas, making the learning experience engaging and meaningful to all students,” she wrote in an email.

The family resource guide included an eclipse presentation by O’Brien for the elementary students, along with a PBS learning video. The lessons it offered helped them better understand the eclipse’s significance and gave the day more meaning.

“At first, they just thought it was just a typical day,” Baxt wrote. “We’ve helped them understand the level of excitement that people throughout the world have.”

“Students love learning anything that has to do with outer space!” Thompson added. “The phenomena of a solar eclipse this close to home has been a topic of discussion for the past several weeks.”

“I hope that this experience inspires students to learn more about astronomy and space exploration,” O’Brien wrote. “I’m all about anything that sparks curiosity, wonder and joy in students.”