HISD students take in solar eclipse with help from NASA

On April 8, 2024, a solar eclipse was visible across the U.S., with parts of Texas lucky enough to experience a total eclipse of the sun by the moon. Houston landed just outside of the path of totality, giving students the opportunity to witness the moon’s 94% obfuscation of the sun using special kits provided by Space Center Houston and delivered by a real NASA astronaut. 

Astronaut and Space Center Houston Chief Science Officer Megan MacArthur surprised students at Anderson and Bonham Elementary Schools, Sugar Grove Academy, and Westbury High School where she and her team delivered “eclipse in a box” kits. The kits, designed by MacArthur, included glasses for safe eclipse viewing, an educational guide to help students learn about this rare occurrence, and shadow cards to make crescent-shaped shadows that only occur during a solar eclipse.

“The kids were able to ask a lot of questions and prepare themselves for what an eclipse really is, and they were excited about it,” said Anderson Elementary Principal Erica Tran. “I think [things like this] open up their interests to astronomy and gets them excited about science and space. Astronaut MacArthur coming out was eye-opening for the girls in particular, seeing that there was a lady astronaut, that she’s real. It opens their minds more than seeing the same thing every day.”

The purpose of Space Center Houston’s visits was to inspire students and deepen their interest in space science through practical exposure.

“This is a unique opportunity to really understand something that happens on such a large scale that it can be hard to picture,” said MacArthur. “This is a way to help them realize their place in the solar system and the universe.”

The cloudy weather mercifully let up long enough for HISD students to be able to go outside to watch the eclipse during the school day. Using their eclipse glasses, Anderson Elementary students gathered on the blacktop of their campus Spark Park and watched the moon pass across the sun, dropping the temperature and plunging the city into shadow.

“This eclipse is special because it’s going to be a total eclipse,” said Anderson Elementary fourth grader Isayah Figuroa, who spent much of his time outside lying on the blacktop and watching the moon’s journey across the sun in real time. “The next one isn’t going to happen for 20 years!”

HISD partners with NASA several times a year on many different projects and initiatives to fuel students’ passion for STEM and space science. To read about HISD students’ previous forays into aerospace, click here.