The sky served as the classroom for Gahanna Middle School East students and staff last week.

Jill Beaver, the school's assistant principal, said everyone was so excited about the Aug. 21 solar eclipse that they're already talking about the next one in 2024.

"All students with parental permission were able to see the eclipse with the protective glasses purchased by the PTA," Beaver said.

While wearing the eclipse-viewing glasses, Beaver and principal Brad Barboza explained the do's and don'ts of viewing as part of morning announcements that day.

"We had a few laughs from staff and students," Beaver said.

The schools' students took turns going outdoors in groups to view the solar eclipse while others live-streamed it online.

"Teachers had lessons that included writing surrounding observations of the eclipse both live and recorded," Beaver said. "Most kids were able to observe the eclipse even with the cloud coverage. The students were very interested in the view when they were able to go outside."

Personally, Beaver said she found it interesting, especially when the clouds went away and the eclipse was viewed more clearly.

Josh Goody, a science teacher at the school, said the patterns of the Earth, moon and sun are big topics within the seventh-grade state education standards, so he was excited for an opportunity to showcase something he talks about every year.

"The kids were awesome to watch during this experience, because their reactions were so great," he said. "Many of them were amazed at being able to see this rare event and thought it was incredible to see something that we talk about frequently.

"We also asked students to listen to the nature around them and observe how nature handles this event. Students were amazed at how earlier in the day, there were birds chirping and sounds everywhere but during the eclipse, it was so incredibly quiet," Goody said.

Being able to view the live-stream coverage from NASA and see how many people had gathered to watch the eclipse across the country also really helped students understand how important an event it was, Goody said.

After a safety talk and brief overview, the staff allowed students to think independently about what was happening, and let them formulate an understanding from the things they were seeing.

"We guided them with questions to think about and tried to explain, but students were left to form the understanding on their own from what they could observe," Goody said. "We live-streamed NASA's website on our Smart Boards that featured watch parties from around the country where there was a total eclipse, like Nebraska and Kentucky."

Students also used their new Chromebook laptops to watch other sites that were live-streaming the eclipse around the country.

"While students were using this technology to view the eclipse and developing their understanding of how the moon, Earth and sun are aligned, the seventh-grade staff was taking small groups (seven students for each teacher, 50 total) outside to witness the event," Goody said.

"After a few minutes of looking at the eclipse with their eye-protective glasses, teachers would come in and switch out a new group for the experience," he said.

The groups rotated from 2 to 2:45 p.m., when the moon's coverage of the sun was highest -- about 86 percent from Gahanna's viewing area.

After the eclipse, students worked on a conclusion sheet which had questions they needed to research for more complex understanding, Goody said.

The seventh-grade science teachers then reviewed all the information with students and helped fill in the holes where students had misunderstandings or questions.

"The inquiry, research and guided learning while witnessing an incredibly awe-inspiring event left many students with a deeper understanding of the movements of the Earth, moon and sun, and an appreciation for how cool nature can really be," Goody said.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla