FORT HUACHUCA, Ariz. -- Sixth-grade students at Colonel Smith Middle School experienced the solar eclipse Aug. 21 through a variety of handmade viewers, as part of a science project marking the total eclipse crossing the United States.

According to NASA the total eclipse on Aug. 21 crossed the entire country, coast-to-coast, for the first time since 1918. The entire continent had the opportunity to view an eclipse as the moon passes in front of the sun, casting a shadow on the Earth's surface. The moon's shadow crossed the United States from Oregon to South Carolina in just an hour and a half. The view seen locally by students at Fort Huachuca was roughly 60 percent totality.

Principal Sandy Larson, Colonel Smith Middle School, said students had spent the week learning "from NASA, websites, their teachers [gaining] a plethora of knowledge regarding the eclipse, the rarity of it, [and]how this is lifetime opportunity for them."

Larson said students made a variety of devices to be able to view the eclipse safely. Students participating were taking notes on observation sheets as part of the learning process.

"Nature is such a beauty and now they are getting to participate in this phenomenal [event]," she said.

Larson explained it was important for students to not only view the solar eclipse safely, but also the science behind it.

"Why is this happening, what effects may it have on the earth, what percentage of the sun will be covered today?" Larson said were some of the questions students were asked to answer on their observation sheets.

Students studied how the eclipse would look different throughout the states.

"For us, we may only see a small percentage as compared to the total eclipse that is going from one coast to the other," she explained.

Language Arts teacher Andrea Weigle said students and teachers alike were excited about viewing the eclipse.

"It's a big opportunity for us to get out here, learn some things about science and scientific inquiry and making some great observations and taking some good notes," Weigle explained.
Weigle said the school staff wanted the experience to be exciting for the students and "that's why we did it party style.

"The next time there is an eclipse like this in the United States, they may not be living here," she explained since many of the students are military children. "So for them this may be a once in a lifetime opportunity."

Safety was a big concern, but Weigle said as long as you are following NASA's guidelines, students would be safe. The devices students made were engineered for looking at the shadow of the moon as it moved in front of the sun. Students made cereal-box viewers, pinhole plates, and some students punched out designs in index cards so they could see the shape of the moon's shadow.

Some studenst brought personally purchased eclipse glasses for looking directly at the sun safely.
Kellie Larson, Colonel Smith Middle School science teacher, said students spent a lot of time completing different science stations, watching videos and looking at photos of past eclipses as well as studying the path of this eclipse and looking at online simulations of both solar and lunar eclipses.
Bertha Arredondo, parent of a sixth-grader at Colonel Smith Middle School, said "when I was little, I remember making the exact same [pin-hole plate] with cardboard." Arredondo said it was exciting to be able to share the experience with her daughter.

Evan Dorlis, a sixth-grade student at Colonel Smith Middle School, explained students here were only viewing a portion of the eclipse.

"The moon [is] going in front of the sun," he said. "North of us would be a total solar eclipse."
Nate Martin, sixth-grader, bought his own solar eclipse sunglasses for viewing the event safety. He also made a pinhole viewer, which he explained is a "paper plate with a hole in it that projects an image onto another paper plate."

Martin said using his pinhole viewer to see the eclipse was "really neat."