KCC hosts eclipse viewing party

PUHI — The first time Kauai Community College professor Dr. Michael Hannawald saw a solar eclipse, he was a little boy growing up in Germany.

While he wasn’t able to see the totality of the solar eclipse Monday morning at KCC, he was still able to provide students from KCC and Island School an opportunity to view the eclipse at a party he organized.

“We were lucky to see it,” Hannawald said. “We had a window of about an hour to see it, but the rest of the island was probably not as lucky as we were because it was really cloudy.”

Hannawald had a TV set up that had livestreamed footage of the solar eclipse happening in Oregon so that the 25-plus students and others in attendance could see the eclipse at its peak (totality).

Jessie Hedstrom, who is finishing up her credits this semester at KCC with the intent to transfer to a four-year university, didn’t expect to see much Monday, but was pleasantly surprised.

“I really just showed up to take pictures for social media and stuff because it’s a solar eclipse, and that’s pretty cool,” she said. “I was kind of hopeful, but doubtful if I was actually going to see it and take a picture, but it turned out that we get a straight, eagle-eye shot of it.”

Hedstrom was given a pair of eclipse glasses to safely view the eclipse without hurting her eyes. There was also a telescope set up by Hannawald with a solar lens on it for a clearer view of the eclipse, which hasn’t happened in the continental United States since 1979.

“I’ve never seen an eclipse before. I had only just heard about them,” Hedstrom said. “So to be able to come to my college where I come half of the year anyway was really cool.”

Hannawald said he has seen a solar eclipse twice in his life. The first time as a boy and the second time in the ‘90s in southern Germany.

“The total eclipse is just amazing. We didn’t see it here, but the totality just gets really dark all of the sudden,” he said. “The temperature drops by about 10 degrees and you can feel the wind coming. You feel the shadow coming and then it’s dark for a minute and a half. It becomes really, really silent. The stars come out and you see the corona around the sun.”

The solar eclipse viewing party was also Hannawald’s way of kicking off the first day of school at KCC, but it also was the best way for some high school students at Island School to get outside of the classroom, too.

“I had AP (advanced placement) physics to start off first period, so I figured this would be a good way to start off the school year by going over to the KCC solar eclipse viewing party,” said Jeffrey Kozak, AP physics teacher and dean of academics at Island School.

Kozak said the field trip was a spontaneous one, and the students had no idea what to expect once they entered his classroom.

“They thought it was a pretty cool first day of class, especially since I didn’t tell them beforehand,” he said. “I just walked in and said, ‘Hey, it’s the first day of class. You guys want to go on a field trip?’ and we walked over to KCC and explained to them what was going on.”

While his students were a little late to the party, not getting there until 8 a.m., they were still able to learn a lot about what happened during a solar eclipse and join the festivities.

“The students knew (Hannawald) from Science Olympiad so they worked with him before,” Kozak said. “All of them were pretty excited about just learning about it and really liked having the glasses because they could actually see sun spots on the sun.”

Kozak’s students were able to keep the eclipse glasses as a memento, but their favorite part of the field trip to KCC had nothing to do with the solar eclipse. The eclipse up in the sky, that is.

“The kids’ favorite part, though, was the solar eclipse-themed cake,” Kozak said. “That was the highlight for them.”

The event was organized by Hannawald to give students a way to learn instead of just reading about things in textbooks.

“Students always want to know what’s going on, and we want to push more STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) activities for them to motivate students to work outside of the classroom,” he said.


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