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Total Solar Eclipse Will Be the Second Rare Sighting for This Generation

Pride Spring 2024 to print p3 Eclipse 2017 BCJ Photo CutllineMother nature is showing off again! On Monday, April 8, the world will be treated to a rare celestial phenomenon as the sun will be temporarily obscured by the moon resulting in the second total eclipse of this generation. The event will be noticeable between 12:42-3:17 p.m. with prime viewing in St. Louis at 2 p.m.

The eclipse educational experience is being coordinated by District Science Coordinators Beverly Velloff, grades PreK-5, and Elizabeth Gardner, grades 6-12. The two also coordinated the effort for the total eclipse in 2017. (Click here for a printable PDF of the permission form for students to participate on Monday, April 8.)

Gardner says phenomenons like this bring people together and bring science to life. “It is a rare opportunity for our students to have this happen twice in a lifetime when, a generation ago, people never experienced a total eclipse. We get to see it twice!” There will not be another total eclipse in our lifetime.

Gardner says, “This time the path of totality will be wider, the duration of totality will be longer, and the number of people residing within the band of totality will be nearly three times as great as in 2017.” 

District students and staff will receive protective glasses for viewing parties at their school sites or in their neighborhoods. It will be quite a spectacular show during the two and a half minutes when the moon completely blocks the sun’s bright face. Daylight will fade, exposing the hidden solar corona (the sun’s outer atmosphere). Bright stars and planets will become visible as well. 

“In 2017, it was such an awe-inspiring site, some families reported a type of spiritual reaction to viewing the eclipse,” Velloff said. But, it’s not just about the view. The eclipse will be a total sensory experience.

Velloff explained, “In 2017, students were amazed at the crescendo of sounds of cicadas midday dropping off to an eerie silence and birds behaving as if they knew something we didn’t. It demonstrated how nature and the ecosystem are connected and can give us warning signs.” She laughed, “Older students likened it to how music sets the stage for the scary parts in a movie!”

How to View the Solar Eclipse Safely Looking directly at the sun is unsafe except during the brief total phase of a solar eclWe watched through glasses and followed the shadows on white paper as the sun became more and more obscured. We felt the temperature drop as the solar energy dissipated. For many it was a lasting memory that was seen, heard, felt and talked about afterward,” said Velloff.

This is only the third time since Aug. 7, 1869, that Missourians have witnessed a total eclipse. The 1869 eclipse touched only the northeast corner of Missouri. In contrast, the 2017 eclipse was witnessed under near perfect viewing conditions and during school hours for an unique teaching and learning experience. 

Gardner added, “It is also unique that the 2024 eclipse will once again occur during school hours, providing a rare teaching and learning opportunity. The total solar eclipse is truly one of nature’s most awesome sights, and our students and staff will have front row seats!” 

A partial eclipse will occur in 20 years, but the next total eclipse will not happen again for another 150 years. Velloff was the PreK-12 science coordinator at the time of the 2017 eclipse and coordinated lesson plans for the week up to the event, which they plan to replicate this year. Velloff said, “It’s a major highlight within my career and pretty magical when you think of standing alongside our students who are experiencing such a rare phenomenon happening in our world.”

With advance notification to the home school, the District invites families to join in the viewing parties across the District. The 2024 total solar eclipse will cut across the southeast part of the state, through such towns as West Plains, Poplar Bluff and Cape Girardeau. The phases will occur in this way:

The partial eclipse begins at 12:42 p.m. This is the moment the edge of the moon touches the edge of the sun and is called “first contact.” 

Maximum eclipse, where the sun is most hidden, will occur at 2 p.m. 

The partial eclipse will end at 3:17 p.m. when the edge of the moon leaves the edge of the sun.