1027 The August 2017 Eclipse "Blackout" Event at the University of Georgia

Wednesday, 10 January 2018
Exhibit Hall 3 (ACC) (Austin, Texas)
John A. Knox, The Univ. of Georgia, Athens, GA; and J. A. Luft, J. M. Shepherd, P. N. Knox, and C. Wiegert

On August 21, 2017, the University of Georgia (UGA) in Athens, Georgia experienced a nearly total (99.1%) solar eclipse. The event occurred on a Monday afternoon during which school was in session in both the local public schools as well as at UGA.

Noting the prohibitive cost of transporting students approximately 100 miles roundtrip to the path of totality, UGA faculty instead embarked on an ambitious plan to bring the eclipse to both the Clarke County School District (CCSD; 14,000 students) and to UGA (36,574 students).

This presentation traces the eight months of planning and the execution of this twin-pronged science outreach effort, including the raising of nearly $10,000 to procure eclipse glasses and other materials for nearly 30,000 CCSD K-12 students, staff, and faculty and UGA students, staff, faculty, and members of the public.

The event at UGA was held at Sanford Stadium, the home field of the UGA football team, as a "blackout" event in analogy with football "blackout" attire games. It was one of the first educational uses of the 92,746-seat stadium in memory (outside of freshman welcomes and commencements). Explanations of eclipse science, history and viewing safety advice, live viewings of the eclipse from an on-field camera and from the path of totality projected on the football scoreboard, and eclipse-related music all created an enthusiastic atmosphere for eclipse viewing on the UGA campus.

Simultaneously, science lab team members from UGA went to each of CCSD's 21 schools to provide science education and safety instructions for K-12 students, their teachers and staff before and during the viewing of the eclipse. The class day was extended so that all students could experience the eclipse safely at school.

This outreach effort united faculty from the Departments of Geography, Physics & Astronomy, Crop and Soil Sciences, Entomology, the Atmospheric Sciences Program, and the College of Education with members of the UGA Athletic Association, the UGA Division of Marketing & Communications, and the UGA administration in an unusual and synergistic partnership. The result was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to inspire interest in meteorology, astronomy, and science in tens of thousands of K-12 and college students, as well as adult members of both school institutions, and the general public in the Athens, GA area.

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