Kennesaw Mountain High School Broadcasts Live “Eclipse Across America” Coverage

Cobb County School District Director of Media and Public Relations, Donna Lowry, listens as Kennesaw Mountain High School astronomy teacher Berkil Alexander demonstrates what happens during an eclipse. The segment was part of the high school’s “Eclipse Across America” live broadcast August 21.

Kennesaw Mountain High School (KMHS) senior Michy ducked inside school’s courtyard observatory to check that the telescope was programmed correctly to view the impending eclipse. Astronomy teacher Berkil Alexander helped students set up additional telescopes outside the observatory. Meanwhile, KMHS sophomore Mathew Brown kept tabs on reports of observed environmental changes across the country via NASA’s “Citizen Science” project.

Brown’s video production classmates focused cameras, adjusted lights and prepared to countdown to the kick off of the school’s live “Teachable Moment: Eclipse Across America” show on August 21.  Then, while students around the country tuned into NASA’s broadcast coverage, Cobb County School District (CCSD) students were able to watch a live, locally broadcasted, eclipse show—produced by students, for students.

“I was especially thinking about the smaller kids. They were in their class watching [the eclipse show], and the

y were seeing what they could possibly be doing as they advance,” Alexander explained. “I hope [the eclipse] will get kids focused on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education, so they can get into science. I’m a science teacher. So, I want those kids to be excited and ready to learn.”

The eclipse show, which featured live images transmitted from the telescope mounted inside the observatory, transformed the rare phenomena into a teachable moment for CCSD students.

From educating students about what causes an eclipse and how to safely view the phenomena to exploring how past eclipses impacted ancient societies, Kennesaw Mountain students produced an education-packed show.

KMHS, which is a STEM-certified school, emphasizes STEM in the classroom and according to Assistant Principal Lexie Bultman, the eclipse show gave the high school an opportunity to share their STEM resources with students across the district.

“I think this is important for students because it is a once-in-a-lifetime event. It is important for students to see science in action,” Bultman added. “We talk about all these concepts in class. They hear about them from an early age, and to have something like [the eclipse] happen where we can actually physically see it [makes content more relevant].”

Alexander described the eclipse video production as an excellent example of interdisciplinary education. It brought history, art, technology, and science teachers together to achieve the same goal of educating students about the eclipse.

Michy, who spent most of the eclipse period huddled inside the observatory, has already been bitten by the science bug. The senior helped establish KMHS’s Student Teacher Astronomical Research Society (STARS) club to encourage her classmates’ interest in space.  During the eclipse, Michy’s job was to keep the sun in frame on the telescope. The telescope image she controlled was broadcast to CCSD students and staff throughout the live eclipse show.

“This is a dream come true for me being able to witness the solar eclipse,” Michy said.

Her ultimate dream is to become an astronaut.

A 2015 Cobb Tank grant awarded to Alexander helped fund the construction of the high school’s telescope observatory, which served as the backdrop for the live show.  Alexander’s plans for the August 21 eclipse day started before that. He marked his calendar five years ago.

The moon may have moved out of the path of the sun, but the eclipse excitement hasn’t ended for Alexander.

“For scientists, the day is just beginning,” the astronomy teacher said with a smile. “Now we have all of this data that has been captured all across the world. The next part is when we analyze the data. People will be revisiting this data for many years to come.”