Beaufort County teachers using solar eclipse to get kids excited about STEM careers

BEAUFORT, Sc. (WSAV) – Beaufort County teachers are using the rarity of the August 21st total solar eclipse as an opportunity  to get kids excited about science, technology, engineering, and math.

“We haven’t had an eclipse of this magnitude, from coast to coast, for a little more than 30 years,” said Thom O’Brien, an instructor with ExploreLearning, a program equipping educators to teach math and science with online simulators.

Some Beaufort County teachers took part in workshops Tuesday, learning the best ways to get students to understand the eclipse.

“We’re a part of something bigger, we get to look up into the sky, we can learn about the solar eclipse, we can learn about space, and get them excited for careers in the future,” said Chelsea Pyne, a second grade teacher at Beaufort Elementary.

“This one phenomenon that we’re all going to be observing, it incorporates physics, it involves a lot of math, it’s earth science, it’s how the universe works…” said Edie Philips, a science teacher at Hilton Head High School.

They learned everything from how to teach what an eclipse is to the advanced mechanics of space…

“The reason we get eclipses when we get them is because the moon doesn’t orbit the earth at a zero degree angle, it actually orbits at a 5.1 degree angle,” said O’Brien, “Because there’s that angle, sometimes the eclipse is above the earth, sometimes it’s below the earth, it doesn’t always hit the earth.”

The workshop included simple demonstrations such as moving their hand around a flash light to online simulations moving the moon between the earth and sun.

“If we put them in front of a simulation that allows them to change the diameter of the moon, then they can actually see what would happen if the moon were smaller, what would happen if the moon were bigger,” said O’Brien.

So when the sun, moon and earth align on August 21st, kids will meet science and possibly get a glimpse of future careers.
“This is all about getting kids excited about science,”  said O’Brien, “Thinking like a scientist, and in this day and age, when everybody’s talking about the science, technology, and mathematic professions, , we have an opportunity with this eclipse to do a real natural event for them to see the need for science in action.”

Beaufort County schools are closed on August 21st, but students will receive glasses to view the eclipse safely at home.

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