Local teachers use eclipse to celebrate wonder of science

Courtesy of
For the first time in nearly 40 years, a total solar eclipse is expected to bring darkness in daylight hours to some U.S. skies Monday. Teachers at Los Altos and Mountain View high schools plan to turn the event into a learning experience for their students.

A total solar eclipse is expected to be visible throughout the United States Monday, and teachers at Mountain View and Los Altos high schools are prepared to turn the event – which will not occur for another 38 years – into an educational opportunity for their students.

Mountain View High

At Mountain View High, participating teachers will present curriculum to their students tying the eclipse to their subjects, then lead them outside to view the eclipse using special glasses purchased by the MVLA Foundation.

“We’ll have some PowerPoint-type material prepared so that teachers can conduct a little presentation about the eclipse,” said Stephen Widmark, physics teacher at Mountain View High, “and their classes will go outside, probably around the maximum coverage of the eclipse, which will be around 10:15 (a.m.).”

The idea to incorporate the eclipse into the classroom came from a parent who approached Widmark in May. He connected the parent with science department coordinator Sarah Hawthorne. Since then, Widmark and Hawthorne have collaborated to coordinate the event and develop curriculum for teachers.

“Mountain View is not in the path of totality, which means we are just slightly off from the angle where the sun will be fully blocked,” Hawthorne said. “So we will need glasses to examine the partial covering from where we are.”

After researching the glasses needed to view the eclipse safely, Hawthorne said she received permission from Mountain View High Principal David Grissom to purchase them.

Grissom planned to pay for them out of his discretionary fund, but the MVLA Foundation stepped in and offered to purchase glasses for all students in the Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District.

“This is an important event for students to experience, because there will not be another eclipse visible here for 38 years,” foundation board member Kristine Bardman said. “This is not just for the science classes, as there are educational tie-ins in many subject areas, such as history and literature. We encourage our teachers to create innovative learning environments, and this is a perfect opportunity.”

Participating in the event is optional, but more than half of Mountain View High’s teachers plan to take part, according to Hawthorne. She added that the school will have enough resources available for all students and teachers to join in.

“It’s really exciting that it’s happening during the school day, so we’ll all be together and be able to participate,” she said. “I’m really grateful to the foundation for providing us with glasses.”

Los Altos High plans

Los Altos High School administrators also will allow their students to view the eclipse, according to Principal Wynne Satterwhite, and the administration is coordinating with the school’s science department to come up with a plan.

Science department coordinator Greg Stoehr said the tentative plan is to change the school day to a modified tutorial schedule, with the tutorial time coming after second period instead of third.

“This will allow the entire student body to be able to observe the eclipse with the special glasses provided by the foundation,” said Stoehr, who teaches environmental science. “We will also have a PowerPoint – like the one at MVHS – for teachers to present before or after the eclipse, to give students the background on the science of solar eclipses.”

Schools »

Read More

Sports »

Read More

People »

Read More

Special Sections »

Special Sections
Read More

Photos of Los Altos

Browse and buy photos