Wednesday, February 8, 2017
DALLAS — Ancient societies explained solar eclipses through a variety of wild-sounding stories.
Among them are tales of demons eating the sun, dogs stealing the sun, and the moon fighting with the sun.
Those stories have the same ending: The sun is too powerful to be captured for long.
On Feb. 1, students at Lyle Elementary School dreamed up their own explanations during a presentation about the solar eclipse part of the country will see on Aug. 21.
Elaine Cuyler, who calls herself the “chief eclipse officer,” presented the scientific reason for solar eclipses Wednesday at Lyle.
Polk County is part of a narrow strip of Oregon and the United States that will see the eclipse in totality around 10 a.m. on Aug. 21. Cuyler’s mission Wednesday, and with other presentations she’s given along the path of totality, was to spread the news about the eclipse — and spark an interest in science among her young audiences.
• What is really happening during an eclipse?
While the third-graders enjoyed making up stories, the eclipse happens when the moon gets between Earth and the sun, and the moon casts a shadow over Earth.
A solar eclipse can only take place at the phase of new moon, when the moon passes directly between the sun and Earth and its shadows fall upon Earth’s surface.
• For more on the Great American Eclipse, see the Itemizer-Observer’s special section in next week’s issue.
She also wanted to allow them to stretch their storytelling creativity by asking each class to craft its own “eclipse myth.”
“Their imaginations can shine through, to make a bad pun,” she said, smiling. “One student from each class will present to everyone in the room. We will hear how different they are.”
Four third-grade classes gathered in corners of the school’s library to come up with ideas and then narrow down those choices to their favorite.
One group conjured more than 20 different tales, among them was a giant boy’s equally giant bowl of ice cream causing an eclipse.
One young gridiron fan mused that a Ducks football helmet that got knocked off a player’s head blocked out the sun temporarily.
In another, a child accidently let go of her balloon, causing an eclipse.
Her father rescues the balloon before it gets too far away, bringing the sun back.
The class’s favorite? The one about ice cream, naturally.
Near the end of the presentation, Cuyler lead the students in a pledge committing them to telling others about the eclipse
“I solemnly pledge that I will tell my friends and family how much fun we are going to have on eclipse day,” the pledge begins.
It ends with a handy piece of advice: “Be wise: Protect your eyes.”
Wednesday’s presentation, myths and activities, seemed to do the trick of getting the students excited about the rare event.
As the classes left for recess in the afternoon, many students thanked Cuyler and asked if she would come back.
“You can see me on eclipse day,” she said.