Penn Yan students prepare for upcoming total solar eclipse - Catholic Courier
Luna Rogers (from left), Charlotte Canzler, Keith Castner and Ada Anderson look at a projection on a telescope March 11 at St. Michael School in Penn Yan during a demonstration of solar eclipse viewing. (Courier photo by Jeff Witherow)

Luna Rogers (from left), Charlotte Canzler, Keith Castner and Ada Anderson look at a projection on a telescope March 11 at St. Michael School in Penn Yan during a demonstration of solar eclipse viewing. (Courier photo by Jeff Witherow)

Penn Yan students prepare for upcoming total solar eclipse

PENN YAN — Most of the students at St. Michael School have never experienced a total solar eclipse, but that will change soon.

The students recently spent a morning learning all about the solar phenomenon, which will march across a long swath of Mexico, the United States and Canada April 8.

“I’m definitely going to watch it,” second-grader Melina Brown recently said.

Melina’s excitement was high after a team from the Saunders Finger Lakes Museum visited her school March 11. The team’s goal was to help students learn about the eclipse and how to view it safely, according to Debbie Lyon, program director at the Branchport-based museum.

“We also want to get them excited about it and let them know that this is really a once-in-a-lifetime experience for this region. We want them to know how special it is, and we want them to be prepared and appreciate it,” said Lyon, who along with colleague Alyssa Johnson trained to become one of the Rochester Museum and Science Center’s Community Eclipse Ambassadors.

What will happen during a total solar eclipse?

Lyon, Johnson and museum volunteer Brenda Travis used everything from scale models to sugar cookies as they explained to students exactly what happens during a total solar eclipse. During the eclipse, the moon will pass between the sun and the earth, gradually obscuring more and more of the sun from view. Eventually, the sun will be completely blocked, and the moon’s shadow will be cast upon parts of the earth in what is known as the path of totality, which will extend from Mexico through Canada, Johnson said.

“If you are in this strip, it’s going to get completely dark in the middle of the day for a few minutes. It’s going to be really cool,” Johnson said, noting that the path of totality tracks through western New York and the Finger Lakes and Adirondack regions.

In the Finger Lakes region, the sky will darken at approximately 3:20 p.m., Johnson said. Locations near the center of the path of totality — which is roughly 100 miles wide — will experience several minutes of darkness, while places closer to the outside edges of the path will experience briefer periods of darkness, she said.

Although Penn Yan is located along the southern edge of the path of totality and will be dark for a little less than 45 seconds, kindergartner Liam Miller is eager to experience the darkness.

“The moon will make a shadow on our planet, and then when it passes over the sun, it’s going to be day again,” Liam explained after viewing the museum personnel’s presentation. “When the moon passes over the sun and the shadow is on us, that’s my favorite part.”

During the period of totality, the gases that surround the sun will make what looks like a ring of fire — called a corona — around the moon in the dark sky. Looking directly at the sun can cause permanent damage to a person’s eyes, however, so no one should attempt to view a solar eclipse without specifically designed eclipse glasses, which are different than sunglasses, Johnson said.

A total solar eclipse may change animals’ behavior and the air temperature

There are plenty of things to observe during an eclipse that do not require looking up, Johnson added.

“As we’re approaching 3:20 p.m. it’s going to start looking like dusk. We can look at our watch or the phone or the clock and tell what time it is,” she said.

Animals, however, use the rising and setting of the sun as their clock, so when it starts to get dark, animals will think its nighttime, she said. Nocturnal animals may become active. Bats may swoop around, owls may hoot and crickets may chirp. Likewise, animals that are active during the day may think it’s bedtime. Birds may head into trees to roost, and farm animals may head into barns for dinner, Johnson said.

Without the sun warming the air, it may feel a little cooler outside, she added.

A total solar eclipse also may trigger spiritual, emotional changes

Although the eclipse may put a chill into the air, it also may put warmth into the hearts of those who experience it, Lyon remarked.

“You might feel joy. You might feel happiness inside your heart because it’s so unique. It’s something that we don’t get to see every day. In fact, we hardly ever get to see (total eclipses) at all.”

“The excitement that comes from this experience for a lot of people can be very spiritual,” added Debra Marvin, principal at St. Michael.

Lyon recommends people don’t get so caught up in trying to record the experience, either in pictures or in words, that they forget to actually soak it in. Sharing this positive experience with others can have a unifying effect, Travis added.

“We always need those shared positive experiences, and that’s what this eclipse offers us,” said Travis, a retired science teacher. “As a scientist, it’s hard to let go of the science that’s going on and talk about how there’s an emotional aspect here, but I think that’s really important to remember.”

Tags: 2024 Eclipse, Catholic Schools, Yates County News
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