Imagination Station Ambassadors Share Science, Enthusiasm For Eclipse

Imagination Station solar eclipse ambassadors gathered in the downtown science center on February 19. The ambassadors will reach out to their respective communities with information on the science behind the Monday, April 8 solar eclipse as well as how to safely watch it. MIRROR PHOTO BY KAREN GERHARDINGER

BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — The Monday, April 8 total solar eclipse is like the Super Bowl of science, yet not everyone is aware of just what a rare opportunity it is – or how to safely watch it, said Imagination Station CEO Lori Hauser.

“It’s going to take a village to get the word out,” Houser said during a February 19 press conference in the atrium of the downtown Toledo science education center. 

While Imagination Station has dozens of educators and volunteers, the total solar eclipse that will be visible in most of Northwest Ohio calls for an all-out effort, so when chief education officer Sloan Eberly-Mann suggested recruiting ambassadors, Houser was ecstatic.

So were some of the 100 ambassadors from all over the area, including Toledo sixth-grader Amelia Miller, who came to the conference with her mom, Holly.

“This will be my second total eclipse,” said Amelia, a student at Northwest Ohio Classical Academy. 

Amelia and Holly trekked to a family member’s remote North Carolina property in August 2017 to watch the last total eclipse in the United States. This year, as the two prepare for watching from their backyard, Amelia will also be serving as an Imagination Station ambassador to spread the word with her classmates about the science and the safety behind watching the eclipse.

Christina Renz and Chris Puterbaugh, both fifth-grade teachers at Central Trail Elementary in Sylvania, are also ambassadors.

“This covers all of our science standards,” Renz said. “We’re super interested in it anyway, but even more so because it’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing that we can use to teach our kids and their families.”

Imagination Station expected to get 40 or 50 applications from members who wanted to serve as ambassadors, but ended up with over 100, Eberly-Mann said. The ambassadors include retired and current teachers, amateur astronomers and students from Lucas, Hancock and Wood counties.

Ambassadors received training in eclipse science, basic astronomy and eclipse viewing safety last week. Each ambassador will hold educational events in their communities until April 8 as a way to help increase excitement and knowledge about the eclipse.

Anyone within the 124-mile-wide band will see the eclipse, which will reach totality – when the sun is completely covered by the moon’s shadow – at 3:12 p.m. In the minutes leading up to and following totality, a partial eclipse can only be viewed safely with eclipse glasses.

Perrysburg resident Cher Johnson and her husband went to Nebraska in 2017 to watch the total eclipse. In the tiny town where they stayed, the Johnsons enjoyed activities in the hours leading up to totality, and then it all changed.

“Everyone was just in awe. In totality, it became very still,” she said. “We were so glad we were able to experience that.”

Don’t waste time taking photos during totality, since plenty will be available online from NASA and other professionals, advised Hauser, who suggests just basking in the experience. 

The last total solar eclipse visible in Ohio was in 1806. The next total solar eclipse in Ohio will be in 2099. Because of this unique opportunity, NASA predicts hundreds of thousands of visitors to come to the path of totality for viewing, and hotels and roadways could be full.

“The traffic is not to be underestimated,” said Holly Miller, who saw the rural area in North Carolina where she visited in 2017 turn into traffic jams.

Johnson agreed.

“Get ready for a lot of people coming from all over,” she cautioned.

While Imagination Station will have a viewing party, many other organizations are doing the same. Sunshine Communities has a party scheduled on April 8 in Maumee.

“Our name is Sunshine, so of course, we’re going to have fun becoming ‘Un’ Sunshine,” said Cindy Kerr, director of donor relations for Sunshine. She was joined by job coach Mike Bauder and Sunshine clients Ron Ohm and Jay Beaupry, who are Imagination Station ambassadors.

“Ron and Jay will be doing educational pieces for the Sunshine community on scientific facts about the eclipse, weather impact and what to expect on the day of the eclipse, and how our barn animals will react,” Kerr said. “These educational pieces will be done leading up to the eclipse so that we can learn and enjoy it in advance. Even if April 8 is cloudy, we will take this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have fun and learn.”

Ambassadors will be spreading the word through social media and hosting or assisting with eclipse-watching events. Area ambassadors from Maumee include Christina Conway of Northwest Ohio Realtors, Amy Clark and Sue and Richard Hardy. Whitehouse ambassadors include Reg-ina Butler and Sarah Farmer.

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