On Eclipse Day 2017 — also the first day of school — South Elementary School families whooped-it-up as the moon made its move. The swim-suited revelers soaked up the sun and careened down an enormous slip-and-slide hosed down by the Grandville Fire Department. They filled up on planetary party bites, including SunChips, moon pies, sun tea and snow cones.
Every so often, they rocked on their protective eclipse safety glasses resembling 3-D movie-goers — ready in all ways to celebrate the celestial dance. “We’ve got eclipse mania around here,” parent Chris Greco said.
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As the moon began covering about 80 percent for a partial eclipse in West Michigan, the kids stopped splashing, jumping and bouncing about to take notice.
“It’s officially happening! I can see the moon moving! It’s moving!” shouted middle-schooler Preston Lillis.
Like the event at the Grand Rapids Public Museum, this one offered both solar spectacle and educational value.
“They’re using their senses right now,” said Tom Kelly a veteran Grandville elementary science teacher. “They’re making qualitative observations about the moon and sun.
“This is a wonderful way to get enthusiastic about science. The outdoors is a great learning laboratory; it triggers learning like nothing else.”
Fourth-grader Sophia Viviano and her kindergartner brother, Nathan, stopped splashing long enough to check on the moon’s journey across the sun. “It’s amazing,” said Sophia, wearing eclipse-safe glasses. “I can see a half-moon inside the sun.”
Something New Under the Sun
“We’re fired up about this eclipse,” said Jackie Stone, the South Elementary Parent Teacher Child activities coordinator, who planned the celestial celebration ordering 400 ISO-compliant safety glasses.
At 2:22 p.m., Principal Ryan Roberts stood stock-still and caught the wonder, before taking a tumble down the slip-and-slide. Roberts said with the eclipse landing on the first half-day day of school, South PTC couldn’t pass up the unique opportunity – considering this was the first total solar eclipse in the continental U.S. since 1979.
“When you think about it, the next total eclipse — from coast to coast — in North America happens in 2099,” Kelly said. “It’s reasonable to believe that our kindergarteners would live to see that next total eclipse. Me — not so much!”