Last week, millions of people across the United States of America experienced an event that is considered to be “once-in-a-lifetime, including a large crowd of students, parents, and community members gathered to witness the event at Bullard Intermediate School.
As the moon crossed the path directly between Earth and the sun, a rare total solar eclipse was seen in the United States on Monday, Aug. 21, the first total solar eclipse visible in the continental United States in nearly 40 years.
Bullard Intermediate School teachers Lisa Langston and Kenya Johnson joined forces and hosted a family-friendly, safe event allowing attendees to view the rare feat in the skies with proper protection, while learning about the eclipse experience.
“We had a fabulous turn out with over a 150 community members in attendance,” said Langston. “We had children from the age of four and up, including former students who are now in high school, as well as a lot of parents and grandparents. This was a unique opportunity to invite the community of Bullard; because we had promoted it on Facebook, as well, we had people from outside the area that came to experience the solar eclipse with us. We heard nothing but positive comments about the whole experience and everyone thanked us for providing a safe, learning environment.”
Eclipses, whether solar or lunar, occur because of the periodic alignments of the sun, Earth, and moon. Specifically, solar eclipses happen when the moon’s orbital path moves between Earth and the sun.
In the event of a total eclipse, the moon completely covers the sun, whereas in a total solar eclipse, the sun’s outer atmosphere can be seen.
With the larger-than-expected crowds on hand at Bullard Intermediate School to take part in the event, viewers were courteous enough to share the limited number of solar glasses needed to see the eclipse take place safely and not cause permanent eye damage.
“Our community certainly did not disappoint,” said Johnson. “We had a great turnout that totally surpassed our expectations. It was so wonderful to see the parents and grandparents interacting with the children through the experiments. Even though we only had 50 pairs of viewing glasses, everyone was able to participate because of their willingness to share and work together. I definitely consider this event a success because the community was able to come together, learn, share and have fun.”
In total, the solar eclipse viewing event also featured three stations, allowing attendees to view the eclipse safely with the solar glasses, games for young children to play and information through the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and various science experiences, including creating a pin-hole viewer, as well as a family-oriented science project.
According to both Johnson and Langston, the eclipse on Monday was the first total coast-to-coast eclipse since 1918, while the event marked the first total solar eclipse visible in the continental United States since 1979, although it was not a total eclipse in Texas, showing at an estimated 80 percent.
While discussing this year’s eclipse, Johnson also said the next eclipse, scheduled for April 2024, will be especially rare in East Texas, as the region is forecasted to be in the path of totality for the total solar eclipse.
“This eclipse was special because it spanned from coast to coast, which hasn't happened in nearly 100 years,” said Johnson. “Here in Bullard, we were able to see 80% totality. During the next eclipse, which will be April 8, 2024, Texas will be in the path of totality, meaning we will have the rare opportunity to see a true total eclipse.”
Langston confirmed that the Bullard Intermediate School science department is already brainstorming ideas related to planning a total solar eclipse watch party for the 2024 eclipse.
“Kenya and I are already discussing plans for our next Solar Eclipse in 2024,” said Langston. “This one will be even more exciting because East Texas will experience the totality of the eclipse, so we are hoping to have a greater turnout, as well as more glasses, than we did this year. The Bullard Intermediate School science team, as we call ourselves, is excited about getting the community together to experience these once in a life time events.”
Bullard Independent School District Communications Specialist Laura Jones described the event as a community for the entire community that helped those attending to enjoy science as it happened.
“The eclipse viewing party, sponsored by the Intermediate Science Department, was an exciting community event which fostered a passion for science while ensuring safe viewing practices were implemented,” said Jones. “Students, parents, teachers and community members joined together to experience this once in a lifetime event; they were able to incorporate an innovative learning opportunity all while having fun.”