For Young Middle Tennessee Students, The Solar Eclipse May Become Their Earliest Memory In School | Nashville Public Radio

For Young Middle Tennessee Students, The Solar Eclipse May Become Their Earliest Memory In School

Aug 21, 2017

It's often easy to tell how old someone is based on the earliest major event they can remember — and for some first graders at Carroll Oakland School in Lebanon, the rare solar eclipse may be that moment.

It was not a typical Monday for Tammy Boothe's first grade class. The normal schedule was scrapped, and instead it was filled with eclipse-themed activities, like making glittery "moon rocks" with baking soda and acting out the sun, moon and earth.

"Ok, Earth, how are you going to spin?" Boothe asked, as the students holding cutouts of the Earth began to rotate. "And moons, what are you going to do?"

"We're going to walk around the Earth," one student yelled.

The end result was a basic visual understanding of what was going to happen, as described by 6-year-old Mark Scott: "When the moon covers the sun, the sun has a little ring, and then the moon is in front of it, and the moon has fire on it."

Mrs. Tammy, as her kids call her, was in charge of helping all the first grade teachers at the school build lesson plans around the eclipse so that the scientific marvel would be accessible.

"I wanted to find the experiments that we could do easily with 6- and 7-year olds ... to where they would really have a meaningful day that they would remember for a long time," she said.

It isn't often that something happens when students are in first grade that will likely stick with them years later. In some ways, Boothe said, it actually reminded her of planning for the day after the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

"That, I think, is the only thing that I can remember that compared to this, because it really marked a specific spot in time that they would remember for a very long time," she said.

After lunch and a lesson on the importance of eclipse glasses, the whole school headed outside. Mrs. Tammy laid down next to her students, and they put on their glasses.

"It looks like a bite's been taken out of it," she said, looking at the sun.

"Like a cookie," said student Daisy Encarnacion-Melo. "It's getting smaller!"

And then, around 1:28 p.m., the eclipse hit totality. The field was dark, like late dusk. Everyone took their glasses off and began to cheer at the moon, which was surrounded with an eerie glow.

Two minutes and 40 seconds later, the sun began to reappear and the light came back quickly — the end of the show. First grader Wyatt Erwin brimmed with excitement.

"That was the best moment of my life!" he said. "That was my first solar eclipse ever, and my dad told me that I'm not going to see one of these as long as I'm alive."

He said he's sure he will remember this day when he's older.

Miss Tammy hopes so. But for now, she gave her class some other news that is, if not quite as memorable, equally as exciting: no homework tonight.