Wind River Eclipse Education Team Busy with Eclipse Activities

Ed. Note: This story first appeared in the Wyoming Business Report on June 26, 2017, and was written by their staff.

A team of students and teachers from the Wind River Eclipse Education Team (WREET), sponsored by the Wyoming Space Grant Consortium at the University of Wyoming, will launch a high-altitude balloon on Aug. 21 as part of a nationwide, NASA-sponsored project to live-stream aerial video footage of the “Great American Eclipse.”

The team will launch the roughly 8-foot-tall, helium-filled balloon, which will carry a video camera and other equipment to an altitude of up to 100,000 feet, at approximately 10:30 a.m. (MDT) in a yet to be determined location between Pavilion and Riverton. Live footage from the camera will be available for public viewing on NASA’s website, http://nasa.gov.

As part of the Eclipse Ballooning Project, 55 teams from across the country will live-stream footage of the total solar eclipse, in which the moon will entirely block the sun for approximately two minutes on a path progressing from the Pacific coast in Oregon (1:17 p.m. PCT) to the Atlantic coast in South Carolina (2:47 p.m. EST).

The NASA-sponsored project, which is led by the Montana Space Grant Consortium at Montana State University, has been years in the making. According to MSGC Director Angela Des Jardins, the project marks the first time that high-altitude video footage of a total solar eclipse has been broadcast live.

“We’re excited to provide a unique perspective of this rare phenomenon,” Des Jardins said. “The live-stream video will show the curvature of the planet, the blackness of space, and the whole of the moon’s shadow crossing the Earth during the eclipse.”

“Wow!  This is a best experiment ever!” and then, as part of the chase team and recovery crew, “This is really exciting.  I’ve never been on a trip like this with teachers before,”  [said a] 5th grader at Rendezvous Elementary in Riverton.

Sarah Jarvis, a pre-service teacher in the Wyoming Interns to Teacher Scholars (WITS) at the University of Wyoming, is the lead teacher for the Eclipse Kids camp and is becoming an expert in balloon launch and recovery.  “These (high-altitude balloon) launches are incredibly intriguing and exhilarating for all ages!  As a future science teacher I believe these balloon launches provide a fun and interactive way to inform students of atmospheric sciences.  It’s a wonderful way for young children to gain an interest in a STEAM field.”

In addition to a video camera, the team’s balloon will carry a GPS tracking system, a camera to capture still images of the eclipse, and instrumentation to record temperature, humidity, pressure and UVA radiation. Once the eclipse has passed, the balloon will pop and the payloads will parachute to Earth.

The Montana Space Grant Consortium at Montana State University initiated the project in 2014. The project is sponsored by the NASA Science Mission Directorate and NASA’s Space Grant program, a national network that includes over 900 affiliates from universities, colleges, industry, museums, science centers, and state and local agencies belonging to one of 52 consortia in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

The Wind River Eclipse Education Team (WREET) is a collaboration of regional K-12 educators, Central Wyoming College (CWC), informal education organizations, the Wind River Visitor’s Council and family volunteers in the Fremont and Hot Springs counties of central Wyoming.  WREET is being coordinated by Suki Smaglik of Lander, former CWC instructor, now science education consultant.  The team includes special education teachers from Riverton (SD#25) Cheryl Coleman, Andrew Coleman and Phil Pierson; Colleen Bartlett, CWC Education Instructor; and Sarah Jarvis, a Noyce Scholar in Science Education at the University of Wyoming, and future Fremont Co. science teacher.  Suki Smaglik has represented CWC on the Wyoming NASA Space Grant Consortium (WSGC) Board for over 15 years and was recruited by WSGC to form a team in central Wyoming.  She reached out to her contacts in the community, including former students, to create this K-16 team. Suki says that the WREET team is multi-talented and awesome!

In addition to participating in the Eclipse Ballooning project, WREET is doing eclipse education outreach in the community, including ballooning events with local schools, museums and other groups, an eclipse speaker series, an outdoor film festival with a space theme, and a week-long kids Eclipse Camp just before the total solar eclipse in August.  Events are posted on the WREET FaceBook page.

For more information about the national project and press materials, visit http://eclipse.montana.edu

For more information about the Wind River Eclipse Education Team visit http://www.facebook.com/WREET

For more information about eclipse events in the Wind River Basin visit:  http://windrivereclipse.org

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