Students Shining Brighter than the Sun!

ernieaToday’s Contributor: Ernie Aguilar

Ernie Aguilar is a dual-language teacher at Palm Elementary where he teaches Science and Language Arts for Fifth Grade.  In addition to the work he does in the classroom, Dr. Aguilar is the campus SEL Facilitator and Innovation Coach.  

This year we had the unique opportunity of starting the school year on the same day as a solar eclipse.  Along with the usual “getting to know you” activities, collecting school supplies, and re-learning cafeteria account numbers, students at Palm Elementary prepared to go outside and be a part of one of the great scientific wonders of the world.

Throughout the morning, students throughout the campus participated in lessons about the science (and safety issues) of a solar eclipse.  Some classes made their own pinhole projectors using pushpins and index cards.  Other classes used saltine crackers (they already have little holes in them) and had a great snack once they returned to the classroom.  Some discovered that the leaves on the trees created multiple images of the eclipse on the ground.  A few of my students even taught visiting Superintendent Dr. Paul Cruz how to criss cross his fingers to creates pinhole projectors with his hands — sometimes low-tech is pretty fascinating :).


Some students, including my fifth grade class, integrated modern technology into their eclipse experience and joined the scientific community in observing and document the eclipse’s effect on nature.  Using an app form iNaturalist, we made and reported our observations of animals in our local environment – before, during, and after the eclipse.  That data was collected from participants across the world as part of the “Life Responds Project” .

Our class focused on the activities of birds on and around our campus.  Students noticed that before and after the eclipse, the birds appeared to be as active (and making as much noise) as they usually do during the day.  However, the students noticed that during the peak of the eclipse the birds did seem to be quieter than usual.  Yes, this could have been for a number of reasons and not at all related to the only-partial eclipse that we experienced here in Austin, Texas.  Yet, it was great to see them excited about and thinking beyond just the visual spectacle of the Earth’s Moon passing in front of the Sun.  And, it was really amazing to see how proud they were to see that they were participating in real scientific work.  This simple digital app connected these students to people around the world (students, scientists, amateur astronomers, etc.).



  1. What a memorable first day of school! Your photo of the hand shadows is absolutely fabulous and I love your tech integration to connect your students with others across our nation. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Such a great way to start the school year! I love both the high tech and low-tech ways you experienced this unique day with your students. I’m sure they’ll remember it for a long time!

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