Solar eclipse captivates Catholic school students

By Joyce Duriga | Editor
Michelle Martin | Staff writer

Monday, August 21, 2017

Solar eclipse captivates Catholic school students

Students at St. Maria Goretti School in Schiller Park watch the solar eclipse on Aug. 21, 2017. Catholic schools across the Archdiocese of Chicago held viewing events for students. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

“This is the kind of thing you tell your kids when you’re older,” said Campbell Montgomery, a senior at St. Ignatius College Prep, 1076 W. Roosevelt Road.

Montgomery and the more than 1,400 students at St. Ignatius took to the school’s football field to watch the solar eclipse Aug. 21. The sun peeked out from the clouds long enough for people in the Chicago area to see some of the solar event.

“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Montgomery said.

Fellow senior Devyn Krage agreed.

“Getting to come out and miss school for this, it’s just a great learning experience for Ignatius to do this. I think it’s really cool,” she said.

St. Ignatius was just one of the many Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Chicago that took advantage of the eclipse for a unique learning experience. Many teachers used the eclipse in their lessons and created solar-themed activities. Some high schools, including St. Ignatius and Marian Catholic, sent students and staff downstate to Carbondale to experience the total eclipse.

At St. Ignatius, seniors were encouraged to dress in neon colors representing the sun, and the other grades were encouraged to dress in dark colors to represent the moon. In between classes the school also played music themed around the sun and the moon.

“This is such a rare occasion we felt we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to have our students view it safely,” said principal Brianna Latko.

Students at St. Hilary School, 5614 N. Fairfield Ave., gathered with Jim Rigg, superintendent of Catholic schools, to view the eclipse.

Principal Kathleen Donovan said the viewing event happened because science teacher Calvin Andre had the foresight to purchase enough eclipse-viewing glasses for the whole school months ago.

Andre, for his part, gave credit to God for arranging the celestial event for the first day of school. Then he reminded the students again to not look up at the eclipse without their glasses in place.

“We’ll be fine,” he said, “because we’re St. Hilary and we know what to do. Because at St. Hilary, science is fun.”

Andre said the solar eclipse was an opportunity he knew the school couldn’t afford to miss, so he ordered the glasses as soon as he could.

“I did it as soon as I realized this was happening,” Andre said.

Events like the solar eclipse provide an opportunity to get students excited about science.

“We need more scientists and engineers,” he said. “But how do you get kids interested in science? By getting them excited. We need to give them a sense of awe, or adventure. If we just give them information, it’s not interesting.”

Eighth-graders Janine Villamayor, Toni Gallegos and Jon-Andre Gurbal were taking measurements with a light meter in addition to wearing their glasses to directly observe the eclipse. They found the light faded from 245 lumens per square meter at 11:54 a.m., when the moon started obscuring the sun, to 38 lumens per square meter at about 1:15 p.m., approaching peak coverage.

Students also observed that the temperature dropped, offering a bit of relief on a warm, humid day.

The students said that Andre makes science interesting, mostly by allowing them use equipment like the light meter and by introducing lab projects that other students will not encounter until high school.

“Our science teacher makes science fun,” Toni said.

Rigg said he was thrilled that so many archdiocesan elementary and high schools were able to observe the eclipse first-hand. About half the archdiocese’s schools were in session, and for many of them, like St. Hilary, it was opening day.

“This is an opportunity that only comes along once or twice in a lifetime,” Rigg said. “We in the archdiocese were eager to make this a true teaching and learning opportunity, to witness the way God works in the heavens.”


  • catholic schools
  • eclipse

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