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Annular eclipse wows at 45 watch parties across district

Eclipse Watch Party Highland ParkAs the moon positioned itself perfectly between the land in Central Texas and the sun on Saturday morning, school parking lots and fields were filled with the SAISD Familia eagerly watching the Ring of Fire emerge from the rare annular eclipse. 


More than 40 campuses across the district hosted Eclipse Watch parties Saturday, filled with educational materials for families coordinated by the Science and STEM departments. 


"The Science Department and STEM program, in collaboration with Southwest Research Institute and Communities in Schools, were proud to help support the Solar Eclipse Watch Parties held at 45 different schools around the district,” Science director Brooke Vasquez said. “The Annular Solar Eclipse on Saturday was a rare and beautiful sight, and we were happy that our students and families could come together to witness this spectacular event.  It was exciting to see our students engage in so many different STEM activities as we waited for the amazing ‘Ring of Fire.’”


The event was the result of months of planning. The Office of Academics provided certified safety glasses for eclipse viewing, and trained teachers at EPIC Saturday on different activities they could use at their watch parties.
Some of those activities included Build a Boat, Microscope Mystery, Mission to Mars and the Moon, Roller Coasters, Space Docking, STEAM Murals, Straw Rockets, and Plants in Space.


"Families and students seemed to enjoy the space docking, creating plants in space, and launching straw rockets and of course, the culminating event of the Annular Solar Eclipse,” Longfellow Middle School science teacher Eliza Vela said. “This event allowed us to reignite that spark for curiosity that seemed to be lacking post pandemic. Watching staff, students, and families enjoy this together really shows the partnership that we need to continue to foster for student success.”


Some schools partnered together to create even larger community events. Longfellow had partnered with Woodlawn Hills Elementary, and Lanier High School served as a hub for its feeder pattern, hosting more than 300 people to watch the historic event.


"What was cool about the eclipse event were all the science-based stations and the fun little craft projects,” Lanier junior David Garcia said. “The best part of the event had to be when the sun and the moon reached the full eclipse. See the ring where the sun should be a great sight.”


SwRI volunteer, Mike Fortenberry (Assistant Director, Space Systems Division), was able to attend the event and engage with SAISD students and families. 


“It was fun talking to students and parents that came by our table,” Fortenberry said. “The community participation and coordination of the event were great and I’m glad the clouds cooperated.”


The events around the district were so successful due to volunteers, including Fortenberry and others from SwRI and campus-based volunteers, that worked tirelessly behind the scenes to bring the joy of Science and STEM into our communities.


With the annular eclipse in the past, the Science and STEM teams are already preparing for the Total Eclipse on April 8, 2024. As part of the celebration, the first-place classrooms from the fall  Solar Eclipse Writing and Art Contests will have an opportunity to attend a UTSA Solar Eclipse Watch Party. Congratulations to the students below for creating excellent imagery of the Solar Eclipse events. 


Visual Arts Category
K-2 grade level
1st place: Mia from Hawthorne Academy
2nd place: Maria from Neal Elementary
3rd place: Dean from Neal Elementary


3-5 grade level
1st place: Anthony from Storm Elementary
2nd place: Daryna from Bonham Academy
3rd place: Kate from Franklin Elementary


6-8 grade level
1st Place: Noelia from Mission Academy
2nd Place: Zaynah from Mission Academy
3rd Place: Diego from Irving Dual Language

9-12 grade level
1st Place: LG from SAISD HS 
2nd Place: Daniel from Lanier H.S.


Literary Arts Category
3-5 grade level

1st place: Kylie from Storm Elementary
2nd place: Dominic from Storm Elementary
3rd place: Angel from Storm Elementary 


6-8 grade level
1st place: Basil from YWLA Secondary
2nd place: Leryssa from YWLA Secondary
3rd place: Hazel from YWLA Secondary


First-place campus classrooms will be contacted in order to coordinate attendance at the UTSA viewing party for the April 8 total eclipse.

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