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Fairbanks Local Schools Plans Solar Eclipse Project to Educate Students, Staff, Parents and Community!

Updated: Mar 10

If you have traveled on SR 33 between Dublin and Marysville, OH recently, you may have noticed the looming billboard about the upcoming solar eclipse that says, “We are planning. Are you?” Well, Fairbanks Local Schools can answer that question with a resounding yes!

 

While the billboard is relatively new, the districts’ plans to use the eclipse as an authentic learning experience is not. In the spring of 2022, Janel Chapman, Chief Academic Officer for Fairbanks, realized that this would be a great opportunity to move toward their goal of intentionally incorporating authentic learning into grades nine and ten because it would be a shared experience for the entire school community. So, she approached the science team and Superintendent Adam Schirg with the idea. They loved it and quickly ordered eclipse glasses for the entire district, knowing glasses could be scarce if they waited too long. Then in August, the science team began creating the authentic learning plan with the guidance of Partnerships’ Co-Founders, Kathy and Ellen. This work resulted in the creation of the Eclipse Fair, a comprehensive authentic learning experience for the districts’ students, staff, parents and community.


Fairbanks, which is located outside of Marysville in Union County, is in the path of totality and is preparing for a tremendous influx of visitors during the event.

 

“Many of the local businesses that surround the school are opening their grounds to eclipse viewers and some are even hosting special events. We felt our first priority was to keep our kids safe, which is why we made the decision to close school on the day of the eclipse,” said Chapman. “However, we still wanted our students to be able to learn about and experience this amazing opportunity together.”


The project is under the guidance of Fairbanks High School science teachers Crystal Tebbe and Lisa Keller-Cook. Their freshmen and sophomores, now tagged the “Eclipse Experts”, are organizing the Eclipse Fair for grades K-8. Tebbe and Keller-Cook’s students worked in groups to select topics relevant to the solar eclipse. Each group organized a 7-10 minute presentation that they will share with the students attending the fair. On March 20th and 21st, the younger students will spend approximately 50 minutes at the fair as they rotate through seven different “stations” to learn about topics related to solar eclipses. These “stations” were created and will be facilitated solely by the 9th and 10th grade students.

 

“This is a great way to change up ‘school’,” said Tebbe. “Eclipse science can be integrated into so many different course standards, so we are not getting bogged down in “which grade level” or “which standard”. It is refreshing to be able to just learn for the sake of learning. We have the added bonus of being able to share our learning with multiple other grade levels in the district. The younger kids really look up to the high schoolers and are looking forward to hanging out with them. The high schoolers are excited because it is something different.”  

 

And Keller-Cook shares this sentiment. “This project has been so much fun for me. I have thoroughly enjoyed watching my students be engaged, creative, and work collaboratively with their classmates. They are so excited to work with our younger students in the district; it’s been a joy to watch my students prepare their presentations.”

 

But it’s not just the teachers who realize the benefits of this authentic learning opportunity. The students appreciate the experience as well. 


“It's a lot more fun and creative than normal school; projects like these give us, the students, more opportunities to work together with peers and create something out of group research. I really appreciate the opportunity to work on this project and see a total solar eclipse!”

 

“This eclipse project means a lot to me because this could potentially be a once-in-a-lifetime thing for many people to see totality. It also means a lot because we get a chance to educate the younger students at Fairbanks who might not know what an eclipse is and or what safety precautions you have to take to be able to look at the sun.”

 



The high school students have taken an all-encompassing approach to this experience. In preparation for the eclipse fair, Keller-Cook and Tebbe’s students selected and then presented each k-8 class with books about solar eclipses that they will read prior to attending the fair. The “Eclipse Experts” also completed a welcome video that will be shared with the younger students prior to the event. The video highlights what Eclipse Fair attendees can expect to experience. Additionally, students have created beads that will change color during the eclipse. And finally, to meet their goal of outreach to the community, the members of the science club filled “Eclipse Bags” with information about the eclipse phenomena as well as eclipse glasses and choice boards of activities to be completed at home by students and families. The Eclipse Bags will be sent home with students prior to April 8th.


Chapman admits that a project of this size and scope has not been without its challenges.

 

“It can be tough working across grade levels. There were scheduling issues that had to be resolved, but everyone involved has worked together to make this happen.”

 

And Tebbe echoed that statement. “A project of this magnitude would not be possible without the immense support of our administration and our colleagues. Our transportation team (bus drivers) is even in on it with preparing the materials to send home to all of our students in the district!”

 

That support has included financial support from several sources as well, such as the district’s purchasing the books and eclipse glasses to Richwood Bank purchasing T-shirts, which was the result of a T-shirt design contest, for the 9th and 10th graders to wear identifying them as “Eclipse Experts.”

 

The final piece of this project is a legacy creating reflection activity, a time capsule that will be opened when the area experiences totality again—in 2099! All of the students in the district have an opportunity to suggest items to be included in the time capsule. Chapman has enlisted guidance from the local historical committee and even the construction company currently working with the district to be able to select the perfect burial location for the time capsule.

 

“Am I excited? Yes!” Said Lisa Keller-Cook. “And after 31 years of teaching, that doesn’t happen as often as it used to! But I am so thrilled to see this Eclipse Fair in action after months of planning and hard work. I think I am most excited to see my students’ reactions when the younger students are in awe of them at the fair as they realize how much their hard work has paid off. We are putting some artifacts in a Time Capsule for our school community to open the next time an eclipse occurs here - in 2099. I can’t wait to see what our students choose for the future generations to see!”

Perhaps one of her students sums it up best. “This eclipse project is exciting and special because not only do these happen rarely but during my high school years is very rare.  I have high hopes for the eclipse this April 8.”   

 

This sun-tastic project truly has become, for Fairbanks, a total solar eclipse of the heart.

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