Waynesville students go outside to watch, learn about eclipse

Students from Waynesville schools watch Monday’s solar eclipse on the high school’s football field. JEREMY P. KELLEY / STAFF
Students from Waynesville schools watch Monday’s solar eclipse on the high school’s football field. JEREMY P. KELLEY / STAFF

Hundreds of Waynesville students across all grade levels gathered in the district’s football stadium to watch today’s eclipse, as the Waynesville public library’s programming director narrated the event.

Waynesville junior Macy Burchfield said a lot of teachers talked about the eclipse in class Monday, especially the science teachers, but Burchfield was glad for the outdoor gathering, too.

“I think a lot of kids are excited to do something other than just sit in class and learn about it,” she said. “I think it’s cool to have kind of a hands-on experience.”

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The school district bought eclipse viewing glasses for all students for safety. They even customized them for the smallest children by attaching them to a paper-plate with eye holes cut out, so the plate more completely covered their faces.

Waynesville also invited the general public, and dozens of parents and other residents came to the grassy area next to the stadium. Ryan Johnson constructed his own eclipse viewer, using binoculars to project an image onto a “screen” on the ground for his three small children.

“I saw this on YouTube and thought it would be pretty awesome way to capture it,” Johnson said. “We stopped by the dollar store and for 40 cents we picked up this white paperboard. I zip-tied the binoculars to the tripod. Then put a piece of black construction paper around them to create a shadow. We’re getting a really nice projection of the eclipse onto the paperboard.”

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Johnson’s daughter Elle is only 5, but when asked why the eclipse was happening, she quickly said, “the moon is passing in front of the sun.”

Sam Garner said the last eclipse he saw was back when he was a kid in Louisiana.

“I’m not a science buff who knows everything about when these things come by, but since it had been so long ago, I definitely wanted to come out and take a peek,” he said. “I’m just a country boy. Anything with nature, I like. I like looking at the stars at night, and I like coming out to watch things like this.”

Waynesville sophomore Willa Pardon said she was glad the district didn’t cancel school, so the students could participate together.

“I definitely would rather be here because we get the glasses – everything’s provided to us,” Pardon said. “If you were at home, you may not have those resources.”

Mark Reinemann of Waynesville’s public library gave a brief presentation over the stadium PA system, explaining some of the science of the eclipse. Reinemann said in about 50 million years, solar eclipses like this one will cease, because the moon is gradually moving farther away from earth, affecting how it casts a shadow on our planet.

Waynesville fifth-grader Belle Dimbath-Dahnke said she and her friends were looking forward to the eclipse, after hearing safety tips. She was interested that some nocturnal animals could be confused by the eclipse.

“I was excited about it because it hasn’t happened in like, 99 years,” she said.

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