Earth Day celebration focuses on upcoming solar eclipse

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JEFFERSON CITY - Around one thousand students gathered at the Capitol on Friday to celebrate Earth Day and learn about the solar eclipse passing over Missouri on August 21.

Natural Resource Education Coordinator Rob Hunt said “we have lots of different agencies represented here and groups that come and talk to kids. It’s just a fun way for them to celebrate Earth Day and learn a little bit more about how they can help their environment.”

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources hosts the annual event, and this year the event spotlight is on safety and viewing tips for watching the solar eclipse as it passes over mid-Missouri this summer.

“The total eclipse will go across Missouri, the whole state, so lots of people will be exposed to it and get a chance to view it,” Hunt said.

The information provided will help teachers learn about the eclipse since it will happen right around the first day of school for most students.

Hunt said there are a few ways to safely view the eclipse. One way is to project the image of the sun on the ground by poking a hole in a sheet of paper and letting the light shine through. Another way to watch is with protective eyewear like dedicated solar viewers.

Hunt said it is not safe to watch the eclipse with sunglasses.

On the day of the eclipse the Capitol and all state parks will have activities and events for Missourians. State parks will have protective eyewear available.

At the Capitol on Friday, kids were able to meet animals from the World Bird Sanctuary, reuse common items to make crafts and participate in hands-on activities at 25 booths.

After students ate, they separated their lunch leftovers into compost, trash and recyclable materials as part of the Zero Waste Challenge. The students weighed all of the materials to determine how much trash goes to the landfill per participant.

“We’re always trying to get that number lower,” Hunt said.

The Department of Natural Resources recognized Peggy Lemons, the recipient of the Excellence in Natural Resources Education Award, for her work with the Missouri Envirothon, a hands-on competition for high school students.

The department also honored Korte Elementary School student Layla Hayes after she won a slogan contest for the solar eclipse against 100 other 5th graders. The winning slogan was "When the sun doesn't shine, the moon is in line."