HANCOCK COUNTY — Little hands pressed the glasses to their faces, heads tilted up and whipped back and forth in search of the sun.

For the first time in 99 years, a solar eclipse was visible across the United States on Monday afternoon. And with the help of special solar sunglasses, some of Hancock County’s youngest residents stole a few minutes to gaze skyward at history in the making.

As the moon moved across the sun, educators took a chance to teach students about the historic event and have a little fun, too, as the light dimmed ever so slightly.

At schools around the county, there were pajama days, viewing parties and, of course, plenty of references to Bonnie Tyler.

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All in celebration of an event that won’t be seen again until April of 2024.

Day turned to night

As moms and dads dropped their kids off at Fortville Elementary Monday morning, “Total Eclipse of the Heart” blared through speakers — a reminder of what was to come.

Teachers and administrators planned a whole day of eclipse-centered activities for their students in kindergarten through fifth grade. The day’s theme, day turned into night, aimed to teach students about the solar eclipse and celebrate the rare celestial event.

Youngsters and their teachers showed up to school in their pajamas and slippers, and they took turns checking out the eclipse with solar glasses in the afternoon as the sun shrank to an orange sliver. Some classes celebrated with aptly named treats — Moon Pies and CapriSuns.

Art classes were challenged to draw their rendition of a solar eclipse, chalk outlines on black paper. With their masterpieces in hand, they dashed around a set of desks — orbiting the sun.

While enjoying the moment, they also looked to the future. Students made time capsules, jotting down their favorite movies and foods; current events and their future wishes. They’ll bury those pieces of paper later this week. And the next time there’s a solar eclipse — April 8, 2024 — they’ll dig them out.

By then, the youngsters will be in middle and high school, and the capsules will give them a chance to reflect on 2017, said principal Stacy Muffler.

And they had plenty of thoughts to share.

First-graders voted that their favorite food is pizza; they love the Colts, and “Finding Dory” is their favorite movie.

Their wishes were simple. In 2024, they hope people do a better job throwing their trash away and keeping all animals safe.

With the capsule, some classes buried items to remind them of fads and trends. One class plans to bury a fidget spinner.

The goal is to take a snapshot of what life is like in 2017, Muffler said. Will it be different in 2024?

Only time will tell, she said.

‘We witnessed this’

Charli Stegall was positioned on the track Monday afternoon, glasses on and eyes skyward.

It was almost 2:25, the time the eclipse would peak in central Indiana.

She was among nearly 700 students who took to the ball diamonds at Greenfield Central Junior High to watch the rare event.

As she took the sight in, she played her favorite music on her phone and snapped photos.

Her plan was to fill her phone with pictures of the sun.

The school purchased 1,000 solar glasses so every student could safely view the eclipse. Students brought a dollar to help offset the cost of the glasses and a permission slip signed by a parent.

Students spent their sixth- and seventh-period classes hanging out on the ball field, waiting and watching.

Their generation has never had the opportunity to see an eclipse like this, Charli said.

“One day, we’re going to be able to tell our kids we witnessed this,” she said.

Golden opportunity

It looked something like a cookie — maybe that someone had taken a bite out of, Scott Bradley declared as he watched it through his solar glasses.

The Sugar Creek Elementary first-grader joined classmates in trying to describe something the likes of which they’d never seen — but been hearing about for weeks from their teachers.

The district’s three elementary schools and the high school took students outside to view the eclipse first-hand, watching as daylight faded while the temperature dropped just a hint.

At the middle school, students were able to watch the event only on TV after the glasses educators planned to purchase were recalled, prompting the school to cancel its order of protective eye-wear.

Teacher Rachael Knoop said educators took advantage of something exciting to entice students into a science lesson, telling them about what would happen when 91 percent of the sun was blocked by the moon.

Jamie Inskeep, a sixth-grade teacher at Sugar Creek Elementary School, spent weeks preparing her students for what she called an amazing educational opportunity.

And she wanted a front-row seat.

Inskeep took the day off, heading for Kentucky — the closest spot to Greenfield where the sun and moon directly crossed paths, making for a total eclipse.

But before she left she told her students the event would be something they didn’t want to miss.

“It is an awe-inspiring phenomenon they will likely remember for the rest of their lives,” Inskeep said. “This is an opportunity we just cannot overlook.”

By the numbers

  • The last time an eclipse was visible in the United States was February of 1979.
  • The eclipse’s totality, when the moon blocks the sun entirely, was visible in 14 states.
  • The eclipse entered Oregon about 10:15 a.m. PDT and left South Carolina around 2:50 p.m. EDT.
  • The next eclipse in the United States is expected on April 8, 2024, and totality is expected to pass through central Indiana.

Source: NASA

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Kristy Deer is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3262 or kdeer@greenfieldreporter.com.