Nativity hosts viewing party for school families

PORTAGE – As people throughout the United States prepared for the solar eclipse on April 8, it seemed only fitting for the Home of the Stars to organize its own festivities to mark the rare celestial event.
Students of Nativity of Our Savior School were officially dismissed at noon on Monday and invited back with their families for a viewing party that started at 1 p.m.
“We are all excited! We've been talking about this for over a month since we put our plan in place,” said Principal Sally Skowronski.
Skowronski shared that many of the staff were together with students to experience the last eclipse in August 2017 and “it was truly a magical experience! At that time we were the only school in Portage that allowed our students to view the eclipse.” 
Skowronski said some of the school’s oldest students remembered viewing the 2017 eclipse when they were in kindergarten or first grade.
The school purchased solar eclipse glasses, got parental permission and taught the students beforehand about the event and how to view the eclipse safely. Seven years later, the school followed those same steps.
“Everyone seems to be excited, and the students have been working to learn about this event the past several weeks,” she said on the morning of the most recent eclipse. “We've shared a lot of resources with them and, of course, it's all over the media. While we are not in the direct path of totality, we are close enough that everyone should still get a pretty cool experience.”
There were plenty of signs of excitement as families arrived. Each received protective eyewear and settled in a space on the lawn of the front courtyard as songs like “Here Comes the Sun” by The Beatles and “Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Bonnie Tyler filled the air. 
A photo booth was set up along one of the school entryways and the National Junior Honor Society had snacks available for purchase to raise funds for service projects. The fun eclipse-themed goodies included moon pies, cosmic brownies and bottles of Sunny D.
Seventh grader Arriana Ruiz helped manage the snack table and said sales were going well.
“Some of the money is going towards our Washington D.C. trip,” she explained.
Most students spent time interacting with one another but then came back to family members to look up and view the status of the moon passing in front of the sun.
Maria Diaz said spending the afternoon at the school was a great and convenient way to witness the eclipse.
“Do you see it?” she asked her son Benny, a Nativity kindergartener, as he searched for the sun after putting on his glasses.
“I see it!” he exclaimed a few seconds later.
Another Nativity school parent, Cierra Tellez said it was a great idea for the kids to see (the eclipse) and enjoy it with family.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” she said.
Her son Giovanni, a third grader, was curious how dim the sky would get.
“Is it going to be dark-dark?” he asked his mom.
Kindergarten teacher Joanna Smith made a pinhole viewing box and was seen carrying it around to share with the students. She stated it was the biggest one she had ever tried to create. One by one the children came to her to peek inside the box.
“Isn’t this great?” said Smith, referring to the day’s gathering, noting that if not for the school’s event, many gathered might be stuck at work and not experiencing the eclipse with their children. 
Norma Castillo attended with her son Sebastian who is in second grade. She said it was something different that they could get excited about and share with the family and others at Nativity.
“It’s a very good event and a way to bring everyone together,” added Castillo.    
Skowronski said any time people can be together to admire God's creation, it is a special thing. That morning the prayer she shared with those in the school included the line, "As we witness the celestial dance of sun and moon, we are reminded of Your power and majesty; grant us the wisdom to marvel at Your creation, and humility to recognize our place within it." 
“I think that sums it all up,” she said. “How blessed we are to be here in this time and place and make a lifelong memory together.”

Caption: Maria Diaz instructs her daughter Mila, 2, to look toward the sun and see the beginning of the solar eclipse on April 8. The Diaz family was one of many families who took advantage of the invitation by Nativity of Our Savior School to watch the event together as a community on the school's grounds. (Erin Ciszczon photo)