Nothing could eclipse the excitement and enthusiasm of Columbus students witnessing history.

At schools across Columbus, impressionable local youth by the hundreds joined millions of Americans in catching a view of the first solar eclipse to pass through since 1979.

At Central Middle School, more than 100 eighth-graders gathered with viewing gear at the football field to watch a partial eclipse take place.

While the school provided 600 pair of solar glasses for students, some chose to construct and bring their own solar viewfinders made of cereal boxes, tape, a small piece of white paper and tinfoil.

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The home-made devices required users to peer through a small square, seeing the reflection inside the box.

It wasn’t just students who were seeing a solar eclipse for the first time, however, Central principal Randy Gratz said.

“For many of our younger teachers, too, they haven’t experienced anything like this,” he said.

Among them were social studies teacher Hilary Hilycord. “For me, it’s modern-day history,” she said.

Students had been preparing for the eclipse the past two weeks in their science, math, English and social studies classes, said Sheila Blake, a Central Middle School eighth-grade science teacher.

Students in English classes were required to write a letter to themselves in the future about the event, while those in math classes had to keep track of distance, speed and time, Blake said. Individuals in social studies classes discussed ancient myths and how people reacted to solar eclipses and what they did to explain it.

Koryn Greiwe was among students monitoring the temperature using a thermometer beginning at 12:30 p.m. Within an hour, as the sun began to disappear behind the moon, she noticed a 5-degree temperature drop. Eventually, the moon almost completely covered the sun.

Fellow eighth-grader Katy Doran said it was exciting to see the solar eclipse firsthand after hearing how some of her teachers, including Blake, described the most recent one 39 years ago.

Blake said Monday’s atmosphere was similar to what she remembers from 1979, adding that it was an important moment for students to witness.

People won’t have to wait nearly as long for the next one, however. It will take place on April 8, 2024.

“You can see pictures all you want, but to experience it firsthand is different,” she said.

While clouds briefly obscured the view of the eclipse, individuals were quick to put on their viewing glasses once clouds cleared, many of them pointing to the sky.

Nakashima Ryo, 14, among a group of students visiting this week from Columbus’ sister city of Miyoshi, Japan, got to be part of the experience.

Ryo was surrounded by Central Middle School students, smiling as they held up their solar glasses and looked into the sky together as a large group.

Eclipse lessons were not limited to one Columbus area school.

Elementary students at Columbus Signature Academy — Lincoln Campus, for example, saw the eclipse using 375 solar eclipse glasses the school ordered.

Sixth-grade teacher Stephen Shipley, who was wearing a gray NASA shirt, was surrounded by plenty of excited youngsters donning solar glasses.

Shipley said the solar eclipse was a good way to introduce space as part of the school’s future curriculum plans.

“This helps them get interested in a whole new way,” Shipley said.

Jim Roberts, superintendent of the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. and Laura Hack, BCSC’s director of elementary education, were among the spectators who joined CSA Lincoln students, teachers and other volunteers at the school’s playground.

“We’re always looking for real-world experiences,” Hack said. “One nation, one event.”

Schedule for Miyoshi school visitors

Columbus sister city students from Miyoshi, Japan, are in the city this week to take part of their annual educational exchange, hosted by Central Middle School and Northside Middle School. Here’s how the rest of their schedule shapes up.

Today: Walk to City Hall, meet Mayor Jim Lienhoop, visit The Commons, Columbus Area Visitors Center, St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, Columbus Police Department and kidscommons children’s museum

Wednesday: Visits to both middle schools, Cummins, Friendship Alley, Irwin Gardens, First Christian Church and Taylorsville Elementary School.

Thursday: Visit to Spring Hill Camp.

Friday: Japanese students depart Columbus.

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Matt Kent is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at 812-379-5712 or mkent@therepublic.com