Many people of all ages gathered at the Great American Space Jam held at Cane Creek Park in Waxhaw, N.C. on August 21 to watch the solar eclipse. This is the first eclipse since 1918 to completely span the entire contiguous United States, passing from the Pacific to the Atlantic coast. Participation was free and solar eclipse viewing glasses were handed out at the event.
Crystal Starkes, the Extension Agent for the 4-H Youth Development with NC Cooperative Extension – Union County Center, was one of the coordinating partners for the Great American Space Jam. Starkes explains, “The Great American Space Jam is a collaborative program between Union County 4-H & NC Cooperative Extension – Union County, Union County Parks & Recreation, Union County Public Schools, and Union County Public Library. The event is specifically targeted to third to seventh graders. However, all school aged youth and families were invited to attend. The event is a hands-on learning experience that discusses astronomy, solar eclipse, mini-rocket activities, and so much more through a nine station Journey to the Sun. The goal is to educate youth in a hands-on learning environment about the earth science. With our partnership with the school district, we are capturing the NC Science Essential Standards for third to fifth grades and the middle school earth science standards. Our goal is to reach 400 people at this event.“
Lorayn DeLuca, a self-described kid at heart from Monroe, said, “I heard about the Space Jam from Union County Public Schools. I love my park, Cane Creek, and everything Union County does for the community. This is the biggest event in my lifetime and I am proud to be here with everyone today.”
The nine stations each represented a planet that allowed participants to “Journey to the Sun” through interactive educational activities. Station 1 included safety information and education about how to wear the glasses to avoid permanent eye damage. Station 2 studied the phases of the moon using Oreos. Station 3 was a lesson on rotation and reflection and learning the differences between them. Station 4 allowed participants to create balloon rockets. Station 5 featured UV bead bracelet making. The beads changed color in the sunlight. Station 6 was eclipse chalk art and featured black construction paper and chalk to make the corona. Station 7 was all about rockets. Participants made a rocket out of paper and launched them using a soda bottle for lift off. Station 8 tried to convey how big is big by comparing the size of the sun to a pizza and other relatable everyday objects. Station 9 featured shadow box construction using different materials. Kids were able to create different ways to view the eclipse without glasses.
Starkes was very pleased with how well the event went. “This was a great turnout. The kids definitely enjoyed the different activities and lessons. They were able to be a part of history. It was a great collaboration between the different groups.”