ROGERSVILLE — Instead of reading about history in a book, Rogersville City School students spent Monday afternoon outside witnessing history in-person as a once-in-a-century solar eclipse passed over their campus.
With a perfect blue sky and only the occasional tiny rogue cloud, there couldn't have been many places in the country better than Rogersville to watch the eclipse.
While the Hawkins County School System dismissed at 11:15 a.m. Monday, RCS stayed in session the entire day, and all 630-plus students at the K-8 independent school received NASA approved glasses to view the event.
Around 1:45 p.m., students began filing out of their school to a designated viewing location based on their grade: either the east playground, west playground or the front lawn.
All heads were cocked upward as the maximum eclipse occurred at 2:35 p.m.
When the best of the eclipse was over, students headed back to their classes to get ready for dismissal.
"We saw the moon," one student in the east playground said. "It was so awesome."
The actual eclipse was the climax of a week's worth of special instruction at RCS.
"They've been doing activities about it all week leading up to this event, learning about the science behind eclipses, why this one is so rare, that kind of thing, said RCS STEM instructor Jennifer Ewing. "One of the things they learned about is why this one is so rare. You have to have three things. You have to have the moon at its closest orbit around the earth. Also, since the moon's orbit is slightly tilted 5 degrees, you've got to have it cross the path of the sun right when there's a new moon."
Ewing added, "For all three of those things to happen is pretty rare, especially in this large of a viewing area, so we're here for history today."
It was a once-in-a-lifetime event, not only for the children, but their parents and grandparents who also participated in Monday's event at RCS.
"We've invited parents to come and join us, and we're just making an afternoon of it," Ewing told the Times-News about 20 minutes before the maximum eclipse. "It's already starting to get a little bit darker, and I can feel the temperature has dropped some. Even though we won't have totality, it will be pretty close, so we're just going to make a big community event of it."