With the total solar eclipse expected Aug. 21, Hall County teachers are getting digital resources developed by school district educators to help them teach students about the once-in-a-generation phenomenon before and during the event.
Eddie Millwood, principal of C.W. Davis Middle School and digital convergence specialist for the school district, presented a synopsis of the materials to the school board Monday night. He said teachers should have access to those materials by Tuesday afternoon.
The Hall County and Gainesville school systems have chosen to extend the day by an hour on Aug. 21 so that students can experience the eclipse in the school environment.
“Obviously, it’s a very big event and we don’t want to miss the educational opportunity there,” Millwood said. “Right now, any teacher in the world can Google eclipse resources and they’re able to find an overwhelming amount of materials. We can give them resources that we’ve already looked at; we know it’s quality, and they can pick and choose how they would like to use them.”
The materials include a link to a live NASA feed as it flies along the line where the eclipse is expected to be 100 percent. There are also videos and interactive activities to help students better understand the event.
Millwood said the information was developed through the work of Julie Walls, a science teacher at Davis Middle; Keith Crandall, a chemistry teacher at Flowery Branch High; and Penny Christensen, an e-learning specialist in the district’s technology department.
“We are creating a resource bank for teachers in Hall County Schools to pull from and choose activities to do with their students on the eclipse day, as well as give them some background information that they may not know since they are not science teachers,” Walls said. “A teacher who doesn’t understand the science behind it would have access to those resources to fully implement in their classroom to make it a rich learning environment.”
Millwood said the resources will provide new ways of understanding the eclipse.
“These types of things with digital resources open up opportunities we haven’t had in the past because it does allow experiences that you don’t get from a textbook,” he said. “We are very blessed to have teachers who can build these resources. They’re shared school to school and (all schools) are going to have equal access to the materials.”
Crandall said the digital resources are “not a course for teachers to present,” but a collection of information teachers can use as they choose. He said he is excited that students will be able to experience the eclipse at school.
“I think, for our students, this is going to be a once-in-a-lifetime chance,” he said.
While final decisions haven’t been made, district officials have said they will probably keep younger students inside school buildings for safety reasons, while older middle school and high school students may watch the event outside. But all groups will have the opportunity to use the materials before and on the day of the eclipse. Millwood said the materials will be good for all students.
“I do think it will be something they will walk away knowing what happened and have an appreciation of it,” he said. “That’s really as important as seeing it. You need to understand what’s taking place. In high schools, even if they do go outside and see it, to me, if they don’t look at these resources, then they’re only getting about half the experience.”
Teachers and local schools will still have the final say in what materials are used.
“We have a lot of autonomy in the district among the schools. It’s not going to be mandated how they’re going to use it,” Millwood said. “Each school can decide what best fits their day. The resources are such that you don’t have to be a science teacher to be able to use them. That’s one of the things that they worked on. It’s not going to be a cookie-cutter approach.”