exploratorium eclipse dispatches
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click for live webcast June 21 2001  
Morning in Zambia! Yesterday this was a distant landscape, seen from the plane, but today we woke to the sun on the river, the sounds of villagers working, and a fish eagle circling overhead. Despite the excitement of being in a wonderful strange place, we began to stew in our pre-webcast anxieties. For example, will the truck carrying our two tons of video equipment and telescopes up from Johannesburg arrive here in time? It's on the road, somewhere...but we haven't heard from the driver, and there's nothing we can do.

The Dance of the Earth, the Sun and the Moon
Exploratorium physicist Paul Dougherty to talk to the students and parents about the upcoming eclipse.

So instead we decided to visit nearby Tongabezi village, where the teachers at the Tujatane School had invited Exploratorium physicist Paul Dougherty to talk to the students and parents about the upcoming eclipse.
When we arrived walking through the bush, the students, ranging in age from 6 to 12, were waiting outside on the school playground. They greeted us with traditional songs and dances, and play they had written about the importance of sending female children to school, and the risks of AIDS in Zambia. (Some parents in traditional villages do not send their daughters to school, only their sons.)
Tujatane Student
Paul was so impressed by the performance skills of the students that he abandoned his prepared talk about eclipses and instead decided to demostrate the eclipse using dance - The Dance of the Earth, the Sun and the Moon. He asked for a volunteer to play the role of Earth and a very brave 5th grade student, Angela, joined him. She was given an earth globe and asked to spin, showing the day-night rotation of the earth. Soon she was joined by another student dancing a circle around her as the Moon, and a third student far away - the Sun.

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Their dance showed a scale model of the motions that create the cycles of the day, the month and the year . When the moon came between the sun and the earth, there was an eclipse. The audience of parents, students and teachers laughed and applauded as the students did their dance. They asked good questions about the eclipse, such as "What will we see here? How often do eclipses happen?"; and sent us away with a good-bye song.

We left the school feeling like we had been welcomed to Zambia in the most wonderful way.


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