That the first day of the 2017-18 school year in Delta County also fell on the day of the great solar eclipse was something students are likely to remember for the rest of their lives.
At Hotchkiss High School, all students received a pair of "SAFE" eclipse glasses and watched the event from the athletic field. While a swath of America stretching across 18 states from Oregon to South Carolina experienced a total eclipse, Delta County experienced 87 percent totality -- enough to cool the air and noticeably dim the sun.
The first day of school is reserved for the freshman class, said librarian Sarah Marshall. That gives students a chance to tour the school and meet staff and teachers without a lot of confusion and traffic. This year, "It's the first day for the class of 2021," she said. "I think this will make a memorable start to their high school career, and hopefully something they'll remember forever."
Amelia Hickham was among the 52 freshmen watching the eclipse. Eclipses are pretty rare, and this one occurred on the 21st, the same year her class will graduate, she said. "That's a weird coincidence."
Freshman Kenny Drbohlav said he learned about the celestial event three weeks ago. While he preferred to watch it from home, once students got their official viewing glasses, he changed his mind.
Teachers seized on the chance to learn from the eclipse. Math teacher Eric Hollembeak said that last spring his students studied eclipse mathematics and worked on problems posted to the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab website.
Science teachers Michael Munoz and Crystal Samples made an old-fashioned cardboard box pinhole camera and monitored the event by projections of the moon's shadow onto paper inside the box.
In class they also created a visual demonstration using a projector and moon globe to represent the moon's phases and the role the moon phases played in the eclipse, said Samples. She was intrigued by how students came to the realization that the phase of the moon -- there must be a new moon for an eclipse to occur -- ties in with the phenomenon.
Using hula hoops they showed the differences in orbital paths the moon and sun have and how they exist on different planes. "That's why we don't have eclipses all the time," said Munoz.
Hopefully students will hold onto their solar viewing glasses. The next total solar eclipse in the U.S. will occur on April 8, 2024, and can be viewed from Texas to Maine.
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