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Eclipse brings learning opportunity for Elkhart High School students

As the moon made its way across the face of the sun on Monday afternoon, hundreds of students and teachers at Elkhart High School poured outside to witness the astronomical phenomenon.

Among the crowd were students with Dan Walsh’s AP physics class who were busy measuring the air temperature throughout the process. They measured a 13 degree drop at the deepest point of the eclipse and though Michiana wasn’t in the path of totality, students including junior Joey Attkisson said they had a great experience.

“I feel very, very lucky that I don’t have to drive three hours to see this beautiful sight,” Attkisson said.

The data collected by Walsh’s students will be sent to NASA to help document the eclipse and Walsh added the event was a golden teaching moment for Elkhart students, which was one of the small number of schools in Michiana that didn't cancel classes Monday.

“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity for everyone around us to experience this. And not just to take it in, but understand why it’s happening and enhance that experience,” Walsh said.

Elsewhere in South Bend, both Notre Dame and Indiana University South Bend held eclipse watches for people to observe the unique event.

On IUSB's campus, dozens lounged on blankets and lawn chairs as they watched the moon's journey to block out the sun. The university had bussed down those wanting to get in the full path of totality, but physics students set telescopes for those remaining in South Bend and and eclipse-themed music like Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun" and “Here Comes the Sun” by the Beatles played via loudspeakers on Monday afternoon creating a festive atmosphere.

IUSB nursing student Gage Ratkay said he watched the 2017 eclipse through welding goggles and had a good enough experience that he wanted to catch the one on Monday as well. Ratkay and fellow nursing student Brooke Ciesiolka had a blanket set up at the university event. The pair said they were glad to witness the phenomenon close to home.

"It wouldn't have been very practical of me to go somewhere and try and make it back, plus traffic you don't know what that's going to be like. Plus, 97% of a total eclipse seems good enough anyway," Ratkay said.

Editor's note: Elkhart Community Schools is the license holder for WVPE.

Marek Mazurek has been with WVPE since April 2023, though he's been in Michiana for most of his life. He has a particular interest in public safety reporting. When he's not on the radio, Marek enjoys getting way too into Notre Dame football and reading about medieval English history.