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Experiencing the Eclipse Together from Across the Country

nowing a spectacular total solar eclipse would pass over the entire length of the United States on August 21, Chris Hansen, PhD, chair of the Physics and Engineering Department at Southern Adventist University, looked for ways to help others get the most out of the experience. In addition to activities for Southern students, employees, and alumni, Hansen came up with the innovative idea to host a virtual viewing party.

With the help of the North American Division Office of Education, he reached out to all of the Seventh-day Adventist NAD schools within the scope of the eclipse. He offered them free eclipse-viewing glasses if they would perform experiments, take pictures, and share their results with sister schools via Southern’s eclipse mobile app. Anyone could then view the results as they are posted.

“It [was] a great opportunity to build community within our Seventh-day Adventist school system,” Hansen said. “Plus it’s science related, which makes it even better.”

This virtual viewing party was the first of its kind within the NAD school system, and at least 40 K-12 schools signed up to participate, totaling more than 3,000 students (a map of participating schools can be viewed at More than 1,100 people downloaded the mobile app, and 70 viewing parties submitted scientific data collected from their locations during the eclipse.

Kelli Vigil, a teacher at Rapid City SDA School in South Dakota, signed up the 17 students at her school. As a teacher in a small school, she was very grateful both for the free resources to enable them to participate in an experiment like this and for the opportunity for her small school to feel connected to the Adventist community at large.

“Science is the fingerprint of God, but that is sometimes lost in the complex concepts and tricky vocabulary,” she shared. “The more interactive and hands-on our science work can be, the better! I think this will be an experience my students will always remember."

The solar eclipse was not just an excellent opportunity to study science but a chance to be part of something unique and experience the handiwork of God firsthand.

“In viewing the eclipse, we got a sense of being a part of a bigger community,” Hansen said. “There are so many things in nature we can’t see, but God showed His sense of surprise for us in the beauty of the eclipse.”

Many of the participating K-12 schools sent us photos from their viewing parties and we have compiled them in an album

See the photos

winter 2017