As eclipse enthusiasts across the country were preparing to view the recent solar eclipse, Brightwood’s youngest students had the benefit of learning about it from some local experts. Three members of the East Los Angeles College (ELAC) Physics and Astronomy Club (EPAC) visited Brightwood’s four kindergarten classes a few days before the big event to explain what an eclipse is, teach students to make a pinhole viewer, demonstrate how a telescope works, and also give students tips to safely view the effects of the eclipse. EPAC president Braulio Gomez, along with members Rodrigo Vega and Joy Velasquez brought in a model of the earth, sun and moon to show the students how their rotations would cause the unique shadows of the eclipse. They may only be five years old, but the kindergartners seemed to understand the scientific explanation through the demonstration with the model. “I liked when they showed us the little earth and moon,” explained Ashlynn Chow. “They shined a flashlight which was the sun and that showed the shadow on the earth.”
After explaining the potential dangers of looking directly at the sun, the EPAC members showed the students how they could take simple household objects like paper, tape, aluminum foil, and a shoebox and safely look at the effects of the eclipse. Once the students took their shoebox pinhole viewer outside and were able to look inside, the students were impressed with what they saw. Many of them shared the same enthusiasm Nicolas Kiamzon had when he announced, “It’s so cool! The sunlight is inside the shoebox!”
Although the students knew they were not to look directly up at the eclipse, the EPAC members brought along a special telescope that allowed the students to safely view the sun through its protective lenses. Jonas Hanami was among the students who were very excited for this opportunity, “We got to see the sun through a telescope. It looked like a giant orange ball with some spots on it.”
After presenting to the students, Gomez, Vega and Velasquez quickly packed up and gave a short good-bye to their new friends as they headed to Oregon, where they would be experiencing the eclipse in totality. Brightwood’s kindergarten teachers were grateful that EPAC members took the time out of their busy schedule to give their students an introduction to the eclipse. They are hoping to have more opportunities for young men and women from the local community to share their goals and passions about science with their students. Not only did the students learn a lot, they also enjoyed the time they were able to spend with their new role models. It was obvious the students had a great time during their visit. “Meeting the scientists, working with the shoe box, and watching through the telescope…it was all so much fun!” proclaimed Thomas Liu.