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Posted in on April 3, 2024

Science curriculum team helping teachers get ready

The science classroom will extend outdoors on Monday for thousands of students at Arlington ISD schools.

“The eclipse is a once-in-a-lifetime event for all of us and it’s an amazing opportunity to foster curiosity and interest in science among our students and give them a hands-on – or rather an eyes-on – real-world learning experience,” said Jamie MacDougall, Arlington ISD director of curriculum and instruction.

Of course, those eyes need to be protected. And they will be thanks to a donation of solar eclipse glasses from the Perot Museum of Nature and Science for every single student and teacher. (Read “Five tips for eclipse safety.”)

Science teachers across the district are taking advantage of the eclipse and incorporating the event into the curriculum because they know they won’t get this chance again.

While eclipses are not rare, the opportunity to view a total eclipse is. The last total eclipse in the DFW area was in 1878, and the next one won’t come here for another 300-plus years.

Arlington is in the path of totality, a narrow band that stretches from south to north across the country. That means students here get an opportunity that most in America – and even most in Texas – won’t. Everyone in Arlington will get to experience totality, when the moon completely blocks the sun.

Arlington ISD’s science curriculum team has been working to help teachers get their students ready.

“It’s so important to incorporate the solar eclipse into classroom activities because it enriches students’ learning experience by providing opportunities for them to participate in this once in a lifetime event,” said Tamiko Ellis, Arlington ISD science curriculum coordinator.

The science curriculum team compiled all kinds of eclipse-related activities for teachers to use in their classrooms, from solar math challenges to making pinhole projectors for use during the eclipse.

Many teachers and schools are going all out – like at Hill Elementary, where they are having a DJ for the event, or Berry Elementary, which has an Eclipse Celebration and STAAR pep rally planned. At Burgin Elementary, Univision’s chief meteorologist Nelly Carreño visited third and fourth graders to explain the science behind the eclipse and get them as excited as she is for something none of us have ever seen in person.

Plus, students at seven schools are getting a special visit from University of Michigan doctoral student Kathryn Wilbanks. The Arlington ISD and UTA grad – and daughter of Arlington ISD trustee David Wilbanks – is part of a team from Michigan that studies the sun’s corona and has come to Arlington to collect data during the eclipse. She is sharing her research with students from elementary to high school and helping them get ready for Monday.

“Whether it is through learning about why solar eclipses occur in elementary school to participating in a high school Q&A session about space weather models with Ph.D. student Kathryn Wilbanks, students at every level are able to participate,” Ellis said. “Incorporating eclipse activities into the classroom curriculum also encourages scientific inquiry, critical thinking and curiosity, hopefully sparking student interest in STEM related careers.”