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Eclipse Offers Educational Opportunity For Jackson Public School Students

Teens look up at the sky while wearing solar glasses
Jackson Public School District students gathered at the district’s Environmental Learning Center to view the partial solar eclipse on April 8, 2024. Photo courtesy Jackson Public Schools

High school students littered the grassy lawn of the Jackson Public School District’s Environmental Learning Center wearing paper glasses with dark lenses on Monday afternoon. Others held their glasses in place as they gazed at the sky from the wood deck overlooking the lake. Chatter spread through the group as they waited for the clouds to part. Within minutes, the sun, partially covered by the moon peeked through the clouds, giving the students a glimpse at the rare sight.

Though Mississippi was not in the path of totality and dreary weather blocked most residents’ views, JPS students watched the eclipse from the district’s Environmental Learning Center, which sits on 640 acres and includes a sprawling lake, nature trails, plants, trees and animals.

A partial solar eclipse seen through a cloudy sky
The partial solar eclipse was visible through clouds for some Mississippians on April 8, 2024. Photo by Kristin Brenemen

Jackson State University Meteorology professor Loren White spoke to students before the eclipse began. He gave the group an overview of what to expect and discussed the science behind the path of totality.

“After he finished with his overview, he explained the different phases and what they could expect to see,” JPS Assistant Superintendent for High Schools Lakeitia Marshall-Thomas told the Mississippi Free Press. “Even though we did have a lot of clouds, we were able to see the partial eclipse at various times throughout the viewing.”

A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the sun and the Earth, blocking all sunlight in a particular path. Students began viewing the partial eclipse around 12:30 p.m. After a lunch grilled on-site, students viewed the eclipse at its maximum coverage for the area before departing by bus back to their home schools.

“It was beautiful,” said Wingfield Junior Kevionna Braxton. “I feel like what I read in the Bible is the same thing that we experienced here.”

Teachers said the event provided multiple teaching opportunities for students. Wingfield High School Chemistry teacher Shala Stockdale Turner showed her students YouTube videos from the 2017 partial eclipse to provide background. The students also learned about the different types of eclipses leading up to the event. Tucker selected 20 students to attend the viewing at the Environmental Learning Center.

“When you are outside among people and you are not stuck in the classroom, I think you learn more,” Tucker told the Mississippi Free Press on April 8. “You can actually see it as opposed to being in a classroom and just watching it.”

Teens look up at the sky while wearing solar glasses
Hundreds of JPS students gathered to witness the partial solar eclipse through special paper sunglasses on April 8, 2024. Photo courtesy Jackson Public Schools

Tucker said the students left behind were unable to go outside to view the eclipse because of a lack of protective eyewear. The students who remained at school watched the eclipse via computers or classroom projection screens. She also left instructions for her students to do more research on the event.

“When I get back I’m definitely going to expand and we’re going to dig deeper into it and they will have an assignment on it,” Tucker said.

The next solar eclipse is projected to occur in 2044.

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