But despite the decision to keep students inside, teachers came prepared to take advantage of the teaching moment, and many parents pulled their kids from school to view the event with special solar glasses.
A small group of campers and local residents gathered as Mancos State Park hosted a viewing party for campers and local residents, and the Anasazi Heritage Center hosted an Eclipse Extravaganza, a free viewing party with hands-on activities, solar-viewing equipment and live feeds from the path of totality.
At Hovenweep National Monument, hikers viewed a once-in-a-lifetime eclipse in an ancient home that has seen them before.
Kemper Elementary allowed parents to watch the eclipse with their children. Parents arrived to pull their children outside for supervised viewing with specialized glasses required to avoid eye damage.
“It looks so cool,” said elementary student Jaris McDonald, who viewed the eclipse with his dad and sister on the sidewalk in front of Kemper.
He had read a book about eclipses on Sunday night and learned about an eclipse’s “path of totality,” where the sky darkens.
Dozens of first-graders gathered in the library to view a live NASA broadcast of the event.
“It is very educational,” said dean of students Marcos Michel. “The children are very intrigued about it,” said Teresa Krause, a third-grade teacher at Kemper. “We will continue learning about eclipses throughout the week.”
“There is a lot of excitement, and eclipse lessons are going on throughout the school,” added Principal Jamie Haukeness.
He said about 30 students were absent because of cultural reasons or because their parents wanted to them to experience the eclipse.
At Cortez Middle School, teacher Kelly Gregory had students demonstrate how an eclipse works using models of the Earth and moon and a flashlight for the sun.
“Look out the windows and notice how it will get darker outside,” she said.
Parent Kimberly Yanito, a Navajo, said she almost kept her son from school for traditional reasons.
“But I decided it was important for him to be here on the first day. I explained our cultural traditions regarding eclipses,” she said.
For Navajos, viewing an eclipse could cause bad luck and health problems in the future, she said. They also avoid eating, sleeping, or drinking during the event.
“My son was kind of surprised to hear that, and I leave it to him to decide what he wants to believe in,” Yanito said.
Students with the Kiva charter school were allowed to view the eclipse. They gathered at Montezuma Park with teacher John Whitehead.
“Besides the moon, Venus and Mercury also cross between Earth and the sun, but you need a specialized telescope to see that,” he told the students as they viewed the eclipse through solar glasses while lounging in the grass.
The eclipse, frequently referred to as the “Great American Eclipse,” was visible within a band across the mainland United States, passing from the Pacific to the Atlantic oceans, though the path of the total eclipse touched just 14 states. In other countries, it was visible only as a partial eclipse. The previous time a total solar eclipse was visible across the U.S. came on June 8, 1918. The last time a total eclipse been visible from mainland U.S. was in February 1979.
Upcoming total solar eclipses will cross 12 states in April 2024 and 10 states in August 2045. Annular solar eclipses — when the apparent size of the moon is smaller than that of the sun – will occur nine states in October 2023 and nine states in June 2048.
Group gathers at Mancos State ParkAt Mancos State Park, a group at the park entrance watched the eclipse in quiet awe.
The park typically offers entertainment or educational events every Saturday, but this week it held a “solar eclipse party” on Monday. Rangers gave out free solar viewers to guests, and local musician Donna Joerg played folk music, spirituals and Bob Dylan songs. About 50 people were looking up at the sky when it reached its darkest about 11:38 a.m.
Campsite manager Sam Soudani said the park staff planned the event for more than two months.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” he said. “It won’t happen again, at least in my life.”
He had more than enough eclipse glasses for everyone, but a few people brought their own. Marc Gebhardt, a Durango resident who spent the weekend at the park, brought a homemade solar viewer with a lens made out of a welding shield. He said that he and his friends planned to try taking photos of the sun through it.
Joerg recently moved back to Mancos after spending some time busking professionally in New Zealand. When she heard about the eclipse party, she said she thought it was the kind of event that would need music. She has seen a few eclipses in different parts of the world, she said, and she always finds them inspirational.
“The whole atmosphere, the whole air changes, and you see a different dimension of it, because of the way the light goes kind of dark in the day,” she said.
Because Mancos only experienced a partial eclipse, it didn’t get dark Monday morning. But there was a noticeable drop in temperature in the park just after 11 a.m., and daylight faded as if it were a cloudy day, even though the sky was blue. At the eclipse’s darkest moment, the park went quiet as visitors stared up through their solar viewers at a tiny orange crescent of sunlight.
From Mancos’ perspective, it took 2 hours and 51 minutes for the moon to pass between Earth and the sun.
Hovenweep’s quiet desert eclipseAt Hovenweep National Monument, shadows of the solar eclipse fell over the tower ruins. As the moon covered the sun, the temperature dropped, and the landscape grew dim.
Hikers were sparse in the park, and the scene was serene.
“It was beautiful to be in a place that was quiet, said Robyn Field, of New York. “To be in a place where you could just observe the changes.”
Robyn, her husband Joe and their son, William Field are vacationing in the area. The family chose Hovenweep for its remote location.
“I had read about it, Robyn Field said. “It is just off the beaten path, not the usual.”
Hovenweep National Monument’s ranger station hosted an event before the eclipse to educate hikers on the event.
“We came out here on a fluke,” Karen Johnson of Minnesota said. “They had a wonderful talk on the eclipse, really interesting, and then they gave us glasses.”
Karen and husband Tom Johnson were also on vacation and chose Hovenweep to view the eclipse over the ancient ruins.
Journal reporter Emily Rice contributed to this article from Hovenweep National Monument.