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Education / Apple News

‘Like a tyrannosaurus rex took a bite out of it!’: Oklahoma City elementary experiences eclipse

A pre-kindergarten student at Putnam City's Tulakes Elementary gazes through eclipse glasses in the moments leading up to 94% totality.
Beth Wallis
/
StateImpact Oklahoma
A pre-kindergarten student at Putnam City's Tulakes Elementary gazes through eclipse glasses in the moments leading up to 94% totality.

They may not have been quite in the path of totality, but pre-kindergarteners through fifth graders at Putnam City’s Tulakes Elementary School were still on pins and needles Monday, waiting to experience 94% totality at the solar eclipse.

“The moon [is] getting in front of the sun, and it’s going to be less daylight,” a third grader said. “And whenever I look at it, it looks like a little toenail!”

Students gathered around the playground and soccer fields behind the school with custom-designed paper plate eclipse glasses and cereal box pinhole viewers. As the sun’s crescent became smaller, fifth graders commented on the orange-yellow “banana moon,” and pre-k students chanted, “Come on sun! Come on sun!”

“It looks like a tyrannosaurus rex took a bite out of it!” exclaimed one pre-k student.

Amy Lauver teaches STEM at Tulakes, and she said she was inspired to hold an all-grade-level eclipse viewing after attending a professional development workshop this summer about outer space.

In the preceding weeks, students from all grade levels learned about the science behind the eclipse through experiments, arts and crafts projects and model demonstrations.

“We made a couple different models in class to show what happens when the moon passes in front of the sun, and we used globes and flashlights to make a shadow of the earth,” Lauver said. “I think it’s really important when they’re young to have that real-world science experience — to get them interested in science as they get older and create lifelong learners.”

Putnam City Tulakes Elementary STEM teacher Amy Lauver shows a student how to use a cereal box pinhole viewer before Monday's solar eclipse.
Beth Wallis
/
StateImpact Oklahoma
Putnam City Tulakes Elementary STEM teacher Amy Lauver shows a student how to use a cereal box pinhole viewer before Monday's solar eclipse.

When it hit peak coverage, a dim twilight settled over the playground, the temperature dropped, and croaking frogs and chirping crickets could barely be heard over the excitement.

Afterward, fourth grader Camila recorded her scientific observations on a worksheet.

“We’re going to send it to NASA,” she said. “And we’re going to talk about whenever we started the time to see the eclipse and whenever we [finished] it, and what we saw or heard around us.”

She said some of her peers were disappointed they didn’t get to experience totality.

“Whenever [the sun] started to get bigger, they started to, like, get sad because they wanted to see full totality, but it wasn’t,” she said. “But it looked really cool.”

Lauver said she knew her students were looking forward to it but was heartened to witness the kids get so excited about the science taking place in front of their eyes.

“I didn’t expect them to be so in awe of it, which was really neat to see — to see how they were connecting what we did in the classroom to what they were seeing in person, I think that was really great. As a teacher, you always want that,” Lauver said. "And just for them to get to have actually experienced it instead of just learning it in the classroom, I think that will make it stick with them for life.”

And as the temperature began to climb back up and a circular rainbow appeared in the sky, the little scientists filed back into their classrooms, breathlessly reveling in their brief snapshot of the cosmos.

StateImpact Oklahoma is a partnership of Oklahoma’s public radio stations which relies on contributions from readers and listeners to fulfill its mission of public service to Oklahoma and beyond. Donate online.

Beth reports on education topics for StateImpact Oklahoma.
StateImpact Oklahoma reports on education, health, environment, and the intersection of government and everyday Oklahomans. It's a reporting project and collaboration of KGOU, KOSU, KWGS and KCCU, with broadcasts heard on NPR Member stations.
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