Solar eclipse amazes viewers of all ages at SIUE, Metro East region

By Southern Illinois University Edwardsville

All eyes, protected by approved glasses, were to the sky at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville on Monday, Aug. 21 as thousands gathered to watch the remarkable solar eclipse. At SIUE, 99.5 percent totality occurred at 1:18 p.m.

“Everybody was excited and ready with their glasses,” said Marcus Powell, a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS). “It was nice seeing everyone out on the Quad together.”

“The most exciting part was that we were all cheering together as it neared totality,” added Sarah Surmeier, a second-year pharmacy student. “It was a really interesting experience.”

The solar event aligned with the University’s first day of classes. With multiple viewing sites set up across campus, students were able to safely observe the phenomena. A public viewing site was available at Korte Stadium, where a crowd of approximately 1,500 gathered.

Experts from the Department of Physics were on hand to share their knowledge of the eclipse and operate solar telescopes that captured each moment and allowed for live video streaming of the awe-inspiring event.

“For some people, this will be a once in a lifetime experience, and for younger students, hopefully it will be an inspiration to understand and appreciate science,” said Abdullatif Hamad, Ph.D., professor of physics in CAS.

The University actively prepared for the event and offered community education this summer, including hosting workshops for area teachers, so they could learn the science of eclipses and hands-on activities for teaching.

A history and myths section on SIUE’s eclipse webpage also helped the campus and surrounding communities learn more ahead of the spectacular event.

Approximately 600 people convened at the East St. Louis Higher Education Campus to enjoy the campus-wide STEM Day, Energy to Educate Showcase and Solar Eclipse Celebration, which was broadcast live on HOT 104.1 FM Radio. The day also included bounce houses and a drone demonstration.

The event was coordinated by the SIUE East St. Louis Learning Resource Center (LRC) and funded in part by a grant from Constellation, an Exelon company, designed to inspire students to think differently about energy.

CHSgreenfireOf those attending Monday’s educational event, 100 students were from Lincoln Middle School in East St. Louis and 130 students and staff were from the SIUE East St. Louis Charter High School (CHS).

SIUE East St. Louis Charter High School students protect their eyes as they watch the solar eclipse on Monday, Aug. 21. (Photo courtesy of SIUE)

“We thought that the solar eclipse was a perfect opportunity to have a STEM Day for the community,” said ESLC Executive Director Jesse Dixon. “The celebratory event allowed our students and programs to showcase all of the exciting STEM initiatives at the SIUE East St. Louis Center.”

Interactive STEM activities and displays were available to students and the public in the Multipurpose Room of Building D. Fifteen different STEM-related exhibits captivated the interests of many. Some of those displays included the SIUE Head Start/Early Head Start’s “From Land to Sky” station, the SIUE STEM Center’s “Dry Ice,” CHS’s “Green Fire” and SIUE Upward Bound Math and Science’s “STEM Experience.”

“Ice is made out of carbon dioxide,” explained Matt Johnson, instructional design and curriculum specialist with the SIUE STEM Center, to the group of students looking on. He was showing students how dry ice can react. “You have to put a film on top of it. Dry ice will turn from a solid into gas. It can get so cold that you can get frost bite in seconds.”

“I’m so excited!” gushed Tanja Streater, eighth-grader at Lincoln Middle School, who was at the STEM Center’s display. “I’m enjoying everything. I love to watch science projects and experiments, and I do watch them all the time on YouTube.”

Streater and friends then moved to the next display where other students were crowded around the CHS table. Johnathan Tate, acting STEM department chair at CHS, informed students that when boric acid is added to flammable fuel, it turns the fire green.

On the other side of the room, a 2-year-old Head Start student and two other children were digging in dirt with gardening tools at the Upward Bound station.

“This event had STEM-related education and activities for everyone who attended,” said G. Lynnie Bailey, SIUE Head Start/Early Head Start program director.

“I wanted to come out because the event was so historical,” said Monica Pollard, a student at Southwestern Illinois College. “I brought my two sons, so they could experience it.”

“I liked how the corona stood out as the moon began to pass over the sun,” said 15-year-old Al Pollard, a freshman at Belleville West High School. “I want to get into the science field. I like science because it deals with the ‘whys’ in life.

“I was glad to be here today,” said former CHS English instructor Alsandrya Essien. “I wanted to experience the solar eclipse with our children and be able to see their hunger for education grow. Today’s event and celebration was captivating and magnificent. It was a time to expand our learning and strengthen our community.”

“Today’s event gave me chills,” said Lara Jennings, director of the LRC. “It was great to watch students, the ESLC family and the Metro East community embrace this momentous occasion. I saw curiosity and wonder come across faces as the moon began to eclipse the sun.”







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