Murfreesboro City and Rutherford County Schools’ teachers are receiving free tutoring from MTSU physics and astronomy faculty on a “dark” but sizzling subject — the looming total solar eclipse.
The approximately 150 teachers and others will be passing their newfound knowledge on to their students during the next two weeks.
Through a grant from Nashville-based Turner Construction, which purchased thousands of pairs of eclipse safety glasses for area students, the university’s continuing partnership with both school systems began expanding when teachers attended 1.5-hour sessions in the weeks leading to the Monday, Aug. 21, eclipse.
That day, MTSU will host the Great Tennessee Eclipse, which has been designated by NASA as one of six official viewing sites in the greater Nashville area. Local students and the public are invited to the event, which will take place in the green space in front of the Science Building. To learn more about the MTSU event, visit www.mtsu.edu/eclipse.
In addition to faculty PowerPoint presentations, teachers received K-12 lesson plans. Mark LaPorte in MTSU’s MTeach math education program developed a plan for sixth- through 12th-graders; 11 MTSU teaching science students created a K-6 plan.
“I’m going to go back … and tell others they need to come,” said Jeania Smith, a kindergarten teacher at David Youree Elementary School in Smyrna, Tennessee, who attended a recent training session. “I’m so excited. I want to have an eclipse party.”
Smith said she’s “thankful for the information so I can better provide information for my students.”
Stacia Mills, who teaches first-graders at La Vergne Lake Elementary, believes “it’s a good way to build classroom community.”
“It was very good and very informative,” added Mills, an MTSU alumna as is Smith. “This is something I definitely want information on.”
Kelly Chastain, science specialist with Rutherford County Schools, said the “session was phenomenal. I truly wish everyone in the county would sit through it before Aug. 21.”
For Chastain, who holds three MTSU degrees, it was also “important to hear the questions from the teachers and the experts’ responses.”
The county schools will utilize a NASA video, Chastain said, “outlining the safety considerations and how to appropriately use the glasses.”
About 30 teachers are registered for a fifth training session at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 10, in Wiser-Patten Science Hall Room 102. City and county teachers can register by call 615-898-2130.
“We are trying to educate the teachers on the basic details of solar eclipses and to convey excitement to them so they can carry it to their students,” said Chuck Higgins, MTSU associate professor in physics and astronomy.
Physics and Astronomy chair Ron Henderson and faculty members Irina Peravalova and Eric Klumpe joined Higgins in the various sessions, one of which included principals.
MTSU’s providing “resources they can use in their classroom before, during and after the eclipse,” said Higgins, who is featured in an MTSU YouTube safety video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZEzgZJIr72Y. “It’s a great teaching and learning opportunity, so we hope teachers will take part.”
Higgins added the distribution of about 60,000 pairs of solar eclipse glasses to the schools is also “a way to get them excited for this great event.” The remaining 10,000 pairs of glasses donated by Turner Construction will be available on site on a first-come, first-served basis.
Physics and Astronomy is one of 11 College of Basic and Applied Sciences departments. To learn more, visit http://www.mtsu.edu/programs/astronomy/,
http://www.mtsu.edu/programs/physics/ or call 615-898-2130.
— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)