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Traveling to the Path of Totality

August 19, 2017

Colorado Springs, Colo. – For nearly six months, Physics teacher, Mr. Greg Johnson has been planning a seminar to take students to the “Path of Totality” for the Solar Eclipse on Monday, August 21. It so happens, the eclipse marks the first day of school for middle and high school students at The Colorado Springs School (CSS). Forty-nine students and seven adults, including faculty and two alumni, will depart on Sunday from Colorado Springs to Guernsey, Wyoming. They have made special arrangements to camp at the Oregon Trail Ruts State Historic Site in the National Park.

Head of School, Mr. Aaron Schubach commented on the alignment of this opportunity with the school’s mission, “At CSS, our ultimate goal is to connect school work to the real world and inspire students to find a substantive passion or purpose, that is why we have a school wide commitment to innovative teaching techniques. Seizing the opportunity to travel with science teachers to observe the eclipse from inside the path of totality is an experience that is likely to inspire our students and enhance their appreciation for STEM subjects and the majesty of the natural world.”

Having taught science at CSS for 31 years, Mr. Greg Johnson remarked, “Nearly everyone that experiences a total solar eclipse agrees that a mere description or photograph of the event is wholly inadequate. The astonishing, breathtaking beauty of a total eclipse must be experienced in person. Placing students in the path of totality, so that they may experience the event with their own senses, is far superior to any other method of encountering eclipses, especially for young people. We hope to instill an organic sense of wonder and awe in our students. Traveling to see totality will leave an indelible memory in the minds of our students.”

Mr. Johnson is thrilled by the prospect of sharing one of nature’s great spectacles with his students. But he is also quite open that there are no eclipse guarantees! The seminar could face bad weather or cloud coverage that would prevent them from seeing the event. To view a total eclipse is such a phenomenal, infrequent natural event that to risk failure is well worth the effort. Students were given several scientific articles as homework to prepare for discussions while in the field. History teacher, Mr. David Benson will also deliver a lesson on Westward Expansion during the trip.

It’s remarkable to consider high school students opting to give up a day of summer vacation to report to school a day early in order to travel and attend this seminar, but all the available spaces filled.

Taking a challenging course load that includes four Advanced Placement classes, junior, Tyler B. ’19 reflected on this upcoming opportunity, “The most incredible thing about this experience isn’t the eclipse itself. While I do get goosebumps thinking about the sky going dark and birds going quiet, I think I am most awestruck by how humanity has come to predict this rare occurrence. Not only does timing an eclipse require some very clever mathematics, but finding the path of totality takes some well-tuned technology. To witness this eerie astronomical phenomenon is not simply to stand and look up, but to partake in a shared human experience that even our earliest ancestors did.

As a testament to the power of science and mathematics, this eclipse has only made my plans for the future clearer. Humans are designing technology to take us further into space than ever before; some companies like SpaceX see this as an opportunity to save ourselves from environmental catastrophe on Earth. Materials science has recently grabbed my interest, and I hope to design environmentally responsible materials and processes so that our endeavors into the final frontier can be of a less dire nature. Altogether, I think the eclipse is going to be a wonderful chance to see one of our universe’s truly spectacular “happy accidents,” and I hope everyone traveling to see it can appreciate its profound importance.”

Mr. Johnson will monitor eye safety and all participants will wear NASA-approved eclipse glasses from the American Association of Physics Teachers. junior, Payton M. ’19 said, “I’m most excited for when the eclipse reaches 100% totality because we will be able to see the corona around the sun, which is not visible to the naked eye.”

Young Alumnus, John Churchill ’17 will accompany with the seminar before he starts college this fall at the University of Denver. Since a young age, Churchill has been fascinated by astronomy. He will be bringing his personal telescope with solar filters. Parent chaperone, Tony Bigbee P’18, P’18 will use an 11” telescope with an astrophotography set-up to capture images on his computer that he will stack to produce a final single image.

There may be thousands of incredible pictures of the eclipse posted online within minutes of the totality, but nothing compares to first-hand experience,” remarked Academic Dean, Mr. Eric Gaylord. Mr. Gaylord is a science teacher and has led many experiential seminars at the school, including a space and rocketry seminar last spring. He continued, “CSS students will share an experience with thousands of other interested people from all walks of life; their lasting memories of this event may provide fertile ground to when conversing with a stranger in the future.”

Students remaining on campus at 21 Broadmoor Avenue will witness the partial eclipse predicted for Colorado Springs as a community. As part of the school’s innovative program, high school students will embrace back to school with Mission Centered Seminars (MCS) on topics ranging from the eclipse, to creative writing, cryptography, and art. These seminars will allow students to explore a dynamic world with leadership, ingenuity, problem-solving skills, and personal integrity. Middle school students will begin the year with a camping trip and exercises focused on personal responsibility and community culture. Scheduled courses will commence the following week.

For more information on The Colorado Springs School, contact Jessica L. James, Director of Communications, at or on her cell phone at (719) 210-3499. Learn more about CSS,, or at

About The Colorado Springs School (CSS)
The Colorado Springs School is a college preparatory, day and international school serving students from preschool through high school. CSS programs blend tradition and innovation throughout the educational program. Through superior academics and mentoring, The Colorado Springs School prepares students to think independently and to meet the needs of a dynamic world with leadership, ingenuity, problem-solving skills, and personal integrity.


Link to Facebook album of photos taken of students during the eclipse, click here.