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Lawrence Niemiec started planning his trip to watch the total solar eclipse four years ago.
But it wasn't just a trip for himself. It was also for 160 middle school students from Lincoln Academy, a charter school in Arvada.
Niemiec, the schools seventh and eighth grade science teacher, read an article about the eclipse prediction in 2013 and knew it would make a great lesson for his earth science students.
Last year, he started collecting supplies and on Aug. 21, 156 students and chaperons travelled to Glendo State Park in Glendo, Wyoming to be in the path of totality.
“It was once in a lifetime,” said student Morgan McChesney of her experience. “Everyone was super excited. it was such a cool thing to see.”
McChesney said she has the image of totality burned in her mind.
She described the two minute of totality as a simulation of a sunset with pink clouds all around and a bring white ring around the dark circle of the moon.
“Pictures don't do it justice,” she said.
Leading up to the trip, Niemiec told his students it was all about those two minutes.
“It was an amazing two minutes, it was absolutely spectacular,” he said while siting in his classroom two days after the trip. “It was worth it to watch the kids in awe and wonder. That's what science teachers live for.”
Niemiec described totality as an early dusk look in the sky. He could see a few stars and planets. The temperature dropped and they could hear crickets chirping. Lizards scattered.
He described a flash of light resembling a diamond shape reflecting off the moons crater right before totality.
Then the “whoa” from students as they took off their solar glasses.
“As soon as totality happened, 160 kids erupted into joy — they were awestruck,” said Lori Woods, Arvada resident and Lincoln parent who was on the trip.
Woods said she had been showing her children pictures of solar eclipses leading up to the big event, but in the end, nothing compared to the real experience of viewing it with her own eyes.
“I am extremely grateful for the science curriculum we have here and the opportunity Mr. Neimic provided our family and our kids to experience a once in a lifetime event,” said Woods, who is an aerospace engineer. “I feel like viewing totality was the first time in my whole educational background that it was a true experience of the celestial bodies. To actually be able to experience them lining up perfectly was a glimpse into the universe.”
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