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Once in a lifetime is often overused, but on Monday, the phrase rang true as a solar eclipse brought an eerie near darkness to Antelope County.
With about 98 percent coverage of the sun by the moon, Antelope County residents saw a rare almost total eclipse without even leaving their home or school. For those who ventured about 90 miles south, they saw the first total eclipse in Nebraska since 1954.
“It was an amazing experience,” said Orchard fifth-grade teacher Jana Wilhelm. “A total solar eclipse is once in a lifetime. Honestly, I kind of regret not taking a day off to go further south and see it, but our students really learned and experienced so much on Monday. It was a tremendous educational day.”
But she, like most teachers in Antelope County, did what they do best — used the experience as an educational tool. Both Elkhorn Valley and Pope John took their junior high and high school students south into the path of totality to experience the event firsthand.
At Orchard and Clearwater, students were given the opportunity to witness the eclipse during the school day with proper eyewear and learn about the event.
Neligh-Oakdale did not have school Monday, so students were left on their own to either view the eclipse or not.
Wilhelm said Orchard set up stations to not only view the eclipse but to learn about what was happening around them. Although Orchard never reached total darkness, she said students experienced many of the same effects.
She said the temperature dropped several degrees and shadows were much more crisp as the moon continued to cover the sun.
“The students observed the shadows of the trees,” she said. “We even had one of the lights on the school come on because of the darkness. The students were really fascinated by the eclipse.”
Wilhelm said much time was spent on how to view the eclipse safely and importance of wearing protecting glasses. She complimented her administration for their attentiveness to details during preparation of the event.
“I’m so appreciative of our administration and for our parent volunteers,” she said. “Everyone took the risk very seriously, and we had adult supervision to ensure the eclipse was view safely.”
The next total eclipse in Nebraska will occur May 3, 2106 and June 16, 2178.