The only place Jennifer Cherniak would rather have been than watching the solar eclipse in Woodstock Aug. 21 was in the path of totality.

Cherniak, who teaches fifth- through eight-grade science at St. Mary Catholic School, was excited to spend the day with her students.

“I have been planning for today for more than six months. All of our grades, K through eight, have been doing eclipse lessons, and we will all be going outside to view,” she said.

Looming clouds and overcast skies didn’t stop students at schools all over Woodstock from viewing the rare event. At St. Mary Catholic School, Creekside Middle School and Prairiewood Elementary School, a live-stream projection of NASA footage was readied in case the weather didn’t cooperate.

A donation from Adler Planetarium provided viewing glasses for students, faculty and parish members at St. Mary, and around 12:45 p.m., the student body headed outside, ready for viewing.

Across town, students at the Creekside-Prairiewood campus were set for viewing, too. The schools purchased 900 pairs of eclipse glasses to accommodate students and staff. Principal Michael Wheatley, a former science teacher, was among the most excited in the building.

Students at St. Mary Catholic School watch the eclipse during class Aug. 21. Independent Photo by Ken Farver

“Last week, teachers started showing videos about why this is so important,” Wheatley said. “It’s a great phenomenon that we can use as a teachable moment. Over the summer, some science teachers contacted me about making this happen.”

JoAnn Coughlan, a science and social studies teacher at Creekside, said the eclipse was the most exciting day she’s experienced as a teacher. She reached out to Wheatley in advance and suggested the school make the event a memorable one for the students.

“Mr. Wheatley took control of everything, ordered glasses. It’s really been an experience that revved us all up,” Coughlan said.

Some students had plans to measure shadows, and other students made viewing boxes. Coughlan hoped, despite cloudy skies, the cooling that usually accompanies a solar eclipse would still take place.

“I’m hoping we still feel that temperature drop. With clear skies, it should drop 10 to 15 degrees. I’m hoping we still see five or 10. At least the kids will see the darkness,” she said.

Coughlan added she hoped her students would remember the day and all that went into it.

“I was little when the last eclipse came around. We just watched it out the window.”

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