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Rochester prepares to shine: Warner School gears up for an unforgettable total solar eclipse

Solar eclipse rays on a light starry sky

A rare celestial event is set to grace North America on April 8, 2024: a total solar eclipse spanning Mexico, the United States and Canada. Rochester is one of the premier locations to witness this phenomenon, with an anticipated half a million visitors traveling to the Rochester region for this unparalleled experience. Remarkably, the last total solar eclipse in Rochester occurred in 1925, with the next not expected until 2144. The sky will darken during this event, the temperature will drop, and sounds from nature change. Mistaking it for nighttime, birds stop singing and crickets start chirping – even all within the brief three minutes of this extraordinary event, creating an unforgettable spectacle. This year, the sun is much more active than in 2017, thus adding to the visual experience.

The faculty and staff at the University of Rochester’s Warner School of Education, in collaboration with various campus and community partners, are diligently preparing a range of activities to enhance this extraordinary occasion:

  • Leading the charge is April Luehmann, associate professor in teaching and curriculum and director of the science teacher education program, engaging in citizen science through the Citizen Continental-America Telescope Eclipse (CATE) as part of the Site 28 team at Sodus Bay, collaborating with local community members. CATE will photograph the sun's corona every two seconds during the eclipse’s trajectory across the United States, providing valuable data through a network of trained volunteers and telescopes.
  • Professor April Luehmann and UR undergrads standing next to a telescopeLeading up to the solar eclipse, Luehmann, alongside three undergraduate students from the University of Rochester, dedicated time at the Rochester Museum & Science Center’s Planetarium to prepare for the citizen science CATE project. They learned about the science behind the eclipse and the project’s scholarly objectives, assembled the telescope and conducted practice rounds in preparation for the project. Luehmann invites Warner volunteers to support Sodus community members near the site and engage with the eclipse through complementary activities.
  • Luehmann is also collaborating with Kevin Meuwissen, chair of teaching and curriculum, to offer a teaching/community experience for future educators through a course titled "Topics in Teaching and Schooling." This semester's focus includes "days-after" or "just-in-time" pedagogy, emphasizing responsive teaching aligned with real-time events. Warner teacher candidates will actively participate in the April 8 extravaganza, engaging with community members, including youth, across Rochester's Rec Centers to facilitate eclipse-related activities. There are many opportunities for Warner volunteers to join the teacher candidates in supporting Rochester’s community-based organizations with educational materials, but they could always use a helping hand to engage with families. 
  • Michael Occhino, director of science education outreach in the Warner School’s Center for Professional Development and Education Reform, will spearhead a two-day Sky-Earth Institute alongside indigenous scholars and community activists, including Brianna Theobold, University of Rochester historian, and Joel Helfrich. The Indigenous Sky-Earth Eclipse Festival, a family event, will kick off on Sunday, April 7, in the Hawkins-Carlson Room of Rush Rhees Library, followed by the Indigenous Eyes: A Sky-Earth Eclipse Teacher Institute, an educator-focused learning series, on Monday, April 8, in the Genrich-Rusling Room of LeChase Hall, culminating in a celebration post-totality. The April 7 family event is open to the public, and the April 8 educator event is open to local teachers and their families.
  • The University of Rochester is organizing talks and events on April 8, with additional activities leading up to the date. Detailed information about the University's plans can be found on the University’s website. Organizers are keen to receive updates on plans being developed by individual departments. Please send information on these events to for University-wide dissemination.

Warner School Dean Sarah Peyre expresses, “We're thrilled to bring together our community for this once-in-a-lifetime event in Rochester. It's an opportunity to engage with science, culture and each other in a truly unique way. Come join us!”

For those unable to join organized activities, the Democrat & Chronicle published an article detailing the best viewing times and locations around Rochester. The eclipse will commence at 2:07 p.m. on April 8, with totality beginning at 3:20 p.m. and lasting approximately three minutes and 38 seconds, before concluding at 4:33 p.m. Recommended viewing sites within the City of Rochester include High Falls, Parcel 5, Cobbs Hill Park, Highland Park, Genesee Valley Park, Ontario Beach Park, and the Rochester Museum and Science Center on East Avenue, hosting the Roc the Eclipse Festival. Other suggested viewing locations in Monroe County include Mendon Ponds Park, Durand Eastman Park, the campus at the State University College at Brockport, and Hamlin Beach State Park.

Luehmann emphasizes that safety is paramount but not difficult when engaging with a total solar eclipse.  

“Do not look directly at the sun — ever,” she says. “The sun’s rays during an eclipse are no different than the sun’s rays on any other day. The lens of your eye acts as a magnifying glass, intensifying the already intense light of the sun and quickly causing a burn on the back of your eye (retina). You can only look directly at the sun without protection during “totality,” the three minutes and 38 seconds when the moon is blocking it completely.” During that time, she says, it’s safe to take your eclipse glasses off and enjoy the corona — the intensely beautiful and active crown of the sun fairing around the moon. 

There are several ways to safely experience the eclipse. Learn more about safe solar viewing efforts on the Rochester Museum and Science Center’s website.

The Warner School will have glasses to distribute on the day of the solar eclipse. Pick up yours in the Dean’s Office, LeChase Hall 310.   

As Rochester prepares for the upcoming total solar eclipse on April 8, the Warner School and its partners are ready to make the day special. From citizen science projects to cultural celebrations, there's something for everyone to enjoy. Whether you're joining a workshop or finding a spot to watch, Rochester is set to be a great place to experience this awe-inspiring celestial event.