During February and March, Steinhauer will spend two to three days each week meeting with every middle and high school science class in Geneseo and Livonia schools, as well as interested classes down to fifth grade in Mount Morris, York, Avon, and potentially others. His goals are to raise awareness and help students prepare for the eclipse.
“I want every student to understand how amazing this is going to be,” Steinhauer says. “On average, a single location on Earth gets a total solar eclipse once every 375 years. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Livingston County is in the eclipse’s path of totality, the narrow geographic band completely covered by the Moon’s shadow as it passes between the Sun and the Earth. People in the path of totality will see a variety of celestial effects, including the corona of the Sun’s atmosphere around the Moon.
Steinhauer’s lessons, developed with input from SUNY Geneseo’s School of Education, include what to look for during an eclipse and how to watch it safely. (You can read all about eclipses at Geneseo Solar Eclipse, an informational website created by Steinhauer and SUNY Geneseo associate professor of physics and astronomy Anne Pellerin.) Each lesson finishes with a Q&A, “an ask-an-astronomer session where students can bring out all their space questions. We want students to get excited about science and astronomy.”
Livingston County has provided schools with American Astronomical Society-approved eclipse glasses for safe viewing; Steinhauer is distributing glasses as well.
Auralia Derhak ’24, a physics major from Rochester, NY, and an Eclipse Ambassador, will help Steinhauer present the lessons. Eclipse Ambassadors is a national program of undergraduate students and enthusiasts who partner with NASA and share eclipse knowledge with their local communities, especially underserved communities.
“I’m really excited about the eclipse, and I want to share that passion with younger students, to help explain what’s happening in the sky and give them a sense of wonder instead of fear,” says Derhak, who is currently conducting research with Steinhauer and plans to pursue a doctorate in astronomy or astrophysics. “I also would have loved to have had female scientists visit my schools when I was growing up, so I could have more examples of how women are present and active in the STEM community.”
Lessons begin in the Geneseo Central Schools the week of February 5. Success, says Steinhauer, will be “to have hundreds of students in the area pull their family and friends outside to see the eclipse and explain to them what’s happening.”