While most area schools closed for the total solar eclipse Monday, Aug. 21, St. Francis Borgia Regional High School Principal Pam Tholen said students had the most to gain by spending the day at school with their teachers.
“I think this is just one of those once-in-a-lifetime teachable moments,” Tholen told The Missourian while standing on the football field with students and staff Monday afternoon.
“When we’re in school they always tell us to take advantage of those teachable moments and this feels like it is the epitome of a teachable moment,” she said.
SFBRHS was the one of the only high school open in Franklin County for the eclipse, along with New Haven High School. Many districts and schools closed due to safety and traffic concerns.
Tholen said she was glad Borgia High students were in school and she didn’t think they would learn as much outside at home or elsewhere.
She noted that 90 percent of students were in attendance the day of the eclipse.
Science teachers Dr. Nichole Gosselin and Kyle Kerschen set out to make sure students got the most out of the “once-in-a-lifetime” eclipse. Kerschen helped students look at the sun through eclipse telescopes set up on the school’s track, and Gosselin set up a table with a small cage full of crickets and a temperature measuring station.
“We are actually taking part in a NASA study where you download an app and can take temperature measurements every 10 minutes and send it to NASA,” Gosselin said. “We’re so excited about it. There hasn’t been a total solar eclipse that has crossed Missouri since 1919 so it is amazing to be right in the path of totality.”
Students lined up to watch a close-up view of the moon slowly but surely eclipsing the sun. Kerschen said it was “amazing” to see the students react after planning for the eclipse for nearly two years.
One of Gosselin’s students, sophomore Grace McKinnis, said she had been following the eclipse for nearly a year. She started preparing at home where she constructed a sleekly designed pinhole viewer that proudly touted “MCKINNIS” on its side.
“I’ve known about this for the past year and last summer when I went to space camp where they did an entire presentation on it,” she said. “My birthday is on Wednesday so this is like an early birthday present.”
McKinnis said she hopes to be an astronomer when she gets older. She said the presentation at space camp in Huntsville, Ala., at One Tranquility Base taught her how to build the pinhole viewer that allowed her and fellow students to watch the moon eclipse the sun without glasses.
She plans on chasing more eclipses in the future as well, and is already planning on traveling to see the next eclipse in 2024.
Tholen said it was great to see students interested in the eclipse’s scientific background. She hopes students remember the day for a long time to come.
“We’re having so much fun with it,” Tholen said. “Hopefully they’ll all be talking about this at their 50-year high school reunion.”
Games and sun and moon-themed snacks and meals also were part of the activities as the high schoolers enjoyed the day outdoors. First State Community Bank donated eclipse glasses to Borgia and the Bank of Washington gave out eclipse-themed Frisbees.
Borgia High also sold roughly 600 eclipse T-shirts at $10 each. Director of Marketing and Admissions Moira Vossbrink said the money raised from the T-shirts would go directly to tuition assistance for Borgia students.
Correction: This article previously stated St. Francis Borgia Regional High School was the only high school open in the county. New Haven High School was also open. The story has been corrected to reflect this.