“This is a big event, literally once in a lifetime,” said Jennifer Fanning, a second-grade teacher at Edisto Primary School.

Fanning and other area teachers gathered May 24 at Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College for a workshop to help them teach students about the total solar eclipse that will occur from coast to coast across a portion of the United States on Aug. 21.

Orangeburg County will be in the direct path of the total solar eclipse.

At 2:43 p.m. on that day -- providing it's sunny and not cloudy and raining -- the skies across Orangeburg County and nearby communities will grow darker than normal for about two minutes and 20 seconds -- not as dark as twilight, but noticeably darker. 

Teachers around the country are gearing up by attending workshops in advance of the total solar eclipse. It will mark the first time in 99 years that the United States will experience a total solar eclipse sweep across the country, and it’s the first total solar eclipse on U.S. soil since 1991.

“I know in first grade they teach the sun, the moon and the stars, but we also want to touch on that because this is such a big event,” Fanning said.

“I think the biggest thing is the safety and being able to educate our children in how to be safe when they view the eclipse,” she added.

“I don’t think a lot of parents would necessarily take the time to teach what’s going to be happening and the dangers that could happen to your eyesight if you don’t view it correctly,” Fanning said.

Another aspect of the workshop she enjoyed was learning about ways to teach students concepts about the solar eclipse.

“Building conceptual development behind the solar eclipse, we’re seeing all of these models and we’re going to learn how to implement them into our classroom,” Fanning said.

“Students won’t just be able to view it, but they’ll understand what’s happening and how it works,” she noted.

Charles Laursen, a chemistry and physics teacher at the High School for Health Professions in Orangeburg, said, “I think it’s a really good opportunity to be able to get the information that we need so that we can better inform our students on what’s actually going to be occurring very soon.”

Laursen said Dr. Donald Walter, a professor of physics at S.C. State University, recently spoke with his students about August's total solar eclipse.

“They also got their own glasses so they were really, really excited about that,” Laursen said.

Space and science organizations are making specially designed disposable glasses that eclipse viewers can wear to protect their eyes when looking directly at the sun.

Teachers at the workshop also received pairs of the glasses, which closely resemble those worn when watching a 3D movie.

“This is really a good experience. This is my first time actually being exposed to all of this space content because I don’t teach that in sixth and seventh grades. I think they teach that in eighth grade,” said Keri Fersner, a sixth and seventh grade science teacher at Elloree Middle School.

“I think it’s really cool how they’re trying to prep teachers on how to inform kids about what’s going to be happening,” she said.

Dr. Linda Payne, grant writer and special projects director at OCtech, facilitated the May 24 workshop.

Payne said there will be more workshops for teachers in the near future.

The workshop is funded by a grant to OCtech from NASA through the S.C. Space Grant Consortium.

Contact the writer: mbrown@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5545. Follow on Twitter @MRBrownTandD.

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T&D Staff Writer

Martha Rose Brown covers crime and other topics. The South Carolina native has been a journalist for the past 15 years.

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