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Eclipse big teachable moment in MUSD schools
pic musd eclipse 1
McParland Elementary School student Skyler Patillo along with those in her fifth-grade class were amazed at Mondays solar eclipse viewing. - photo by VINCE REMBULAT / The Bulletin

At precisely 10:17 a.m., Jose Rodriguez could see a little bit more than 75 percent blockage of the sun.
No doubt that Monday’s solar eclipse was a much-anticipated moment for the McParland Elementary School sixth-grade student.
“I’ve been looking at (the sun) all morning long,” said Rodriguez, who proudly sported his NASA shirt while joined by his fellow classmates – actually, the entire student body – during this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
At that same time, Larry Grimes was in Wyoming livestreaming the event for the classrooms. In the path of totality, the Sierra High science teacher experienced several minutes of total daytime darkness.
Students of SHS’s Astronomy Club, meanwhile, had several telescopes out for viewing.
Club member Cheyenne Castle had the 8-inch Dobsonian Reflector telescope aimed at the skies as moon passed between Earth and sun.
SHS junior Carl Rice caught a quick glimpse.
“It’s weird but I like it,” he said. “I wish I was in Oregon to see it.”
Jeff Baldwin, Lathrop High teacher and NASA Airborne Astronomy Ambassador, was in Oregon. He provided viewing points of the eclipse via social media (www.proudtobemusd).
There were multiple ways of seeing the series of events unfold, said Manteca Unified’s Next Generation Science Standards Coordinator Lisa Snyder.
This included pinhole viewing and special sunglasses.
Angela Delgado, for example, used a colander to capture shadows projecting the eclipse. She’s a Culinary Ars student at MUSD Charter Academy.
At McParland, students also did pinhole projections.
“It looks like a macaroni,” said Skyler Patillo, who a fifth grader in Jodi Salgado’s class.
Another youngster, Chantelle Rosillo, enjoyed the series of events and activities. “I like science so I looked forward to this day,” she said.
Those viewing the eclipse were given strict orders not to look directly at the sun. “It could burn your retina,” warned McParland Program Coordinator Shirley Krueneger.
Students throughout MUSD – an estimated 24,000 students – received eclipse shades made possible by NASA and M.E.L.S. (Manufacturing & Engineering to Learning through STEM) Garage.
Every 15 minutes, they kept track of the various phases of the eclipse.
“We drew patterns of the changes,” said fourth-grade teacher Becky Scholl at McParland.
Sixth-grade teacher Susan Kelley indicated that her students took notes of the temperature while looking for changes during those phases. “We did a lot of observing,” she said.
Rodriguez, who is a student in her class, took wrote down notes of the sun’s position prior to the start of the eclipse to the peak moment.
At that point, the skies turned noticeably gray, said Kamiki Soulyalangsy.
“It got a little darker,” added Balkirat Kaur.
The two members of the SHS Astronomy Club also used Mylar lens or solar-filtered binoculars to view the eclipse.
The MUSD district office had telescopes as well as 12 eclipse information stations including a one-inch scale of the Earth coupled with a one-third that size of the moon. Other stations provided measure changes in luminosity and temperature, Snyder said.
Earlier, she led the launch of an unmanned weather balloon with 150 cubic feet of helium that was designed to go up to 100,000 feet. It was equipped with a four-pound payload, carrying three cameras.
The experiment was made possible by a LOGIC fund.
Snyder said that one camera was set to capture the eclipse. A second was focused on the ground while a third monitored the on-board scientific experiment about liquids and freezing points.
The data was to be collected after the balloon, which burst after reaching a certain height, fell back to earth.
Sierra High Chemistry teacher Stephan Unterholzner kept tabs on the balloon’s whereabouts via a satellite tracker.
Snyder estimated the balloon would be coming down somewhere near the San Ramon area.
She’s been excited about this special day for quite some time.
“This is the first visible coast-to-coast eclipse in the U.S. since 1918,” said Snyder, who pointed out the arc of the path of totality, which extended from Oregon to the South Carolina. “There was a partial eclipse in 1979 and one in the 1960s (North America and Central America, 1970).”
Throughout the district, students had a chance to experience this moment during its peak time. From there, the elementary sites went to Rainy Day Schedule, with all students sharing the same recess time.
“This is something that they’ll always remember,” Krueneger said.

To contact reporter Vince Rembulat, e-mail