It’s not unusual for elementary-age students to take a day out of their usual classroom schedule to go on a field trip, whether it’s to a museum or a park or even Memorial Stadium in Lincoln.
On Monday, fourth, fifth and sixth-grade students at Wayne Elementary were able to go on a special field trip, one that likely won’t happen again while any of us are alive.
Five busloads of Wayne kids made their way to Central City, where the kids were able to get a front-row seat to view the solar eclipse that traveled across Nebraska early Monday afternoon.
It was a two-minute experience the students — and their teachers — will never forget.
“It was so short in my mind, but it was a really neat experience,” said Jessica McPhillips a fifth-grade science teacher at Wayne Elementary.
“It was fabulous,” added sixth-grade teacher Jill Niemann. “I had never experienced a total eclipse before in 30-plus years of teaching, but it a great experience for us and for the kids.”
The Wayne students got on the bus early Monday morning and made the 2 1/2-hour trip to a school in Central City, where they heard a speech made by an astronaut before heading outside to watch the progression of the eclipse with their glasses on.
As the eclipse continued and the light started to dim, the kids’ anticipation continued to build. When totality hit, the group of more than 1,500 elementary students from a number of communities across the state were able to take off their glasses and spend a couple of minutes witnessing the unique celestial event.
“(The sun) was there and then it wasn’t,” said fifth-grader Will Leseberg. “I thought maybe we’d hear the crickets chirp when it got dark, but we didn’t really hear anything.”
“It was really cool to see, especially when it got dark and cool,” added fourth-grader Jacen Haseman. “It was really neat, but it was really slow.”
Students not only got to see the eclipse and get a look at the planet Venus, but they got another treat as they watched a plane fly overhead, no doubt getting a closer view of what they were looking at several thousand feet below.
“A number of the kids saw Venus, and after we looked up they saw a jet going across and a number of them wondered what those people were seeing up there at the time,” Niemann said. “There was a lot of wondering going on, which was neat to hear.”
The teachers were equally as amazed with what they were seeing as their students.
“You don’t think about the sun and the moon every day because they’re always up there, but to see them like that was really neat,” McPhillips said. “I couldn’t believe how dark it got and that I could look up at the sun and see what was going on.”
“We had done some research before the field trip about what it looks like, but for us to be in that 70-mile range (of totality) was pretty awesome,” Niemann added.
“It was really neat to see the corona around the sun,” Leseberg said.
“Seeing it happen was really cool, especially when it got cool and dark,” Haseman added.
And while the idea of this being a once-in-a-lifetime experience might not register with the younger kids, both teachers expressed a sense of awe at seeing something they might never get another chance to witness.
“When it got to totality and it got cool when the sun was behind the moon, that was really kind of eerie,” Niemann said. “It was great for us to experience and I thought the kids were really good and were still talking about it.”
“As a Christian, I kind of teared up because this is God’s work and He allowed this to happen, so it was really cool to see His power in the eclipse,” McPhillips added. “It’s amazing how small we really are compared to something like this. It was such a short experience, but it was a really neat experience.”