Even before Pearland Junior High East students walk through the front doors Monday morning, the classrooms are busy. Teachers, including Catherine Pinckney, are putting up last-minute decorations ahead of the first day of school.

“It’s going to be crazy, so I’m looking forward to that,” she laughs.

Not only is Monday the day students return to class, it’s also the day of the first solar eclipse in years. For Pinckney, it’s a first; she says she can’t remember ever witnessing a solar eclipse, so she’s excited students will be able to have this opportunity.

“To be able to be at school and be with your teachers and use that as a learning experience, I think that’s really cool,” she adds.

WATCH AND ASK: HMNS astrology expert answers your solar eclipse questions

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Next door, 7th grade science teacher Dana Sherrill demonstrates a model she built. Using a Styrofoam earth, foil-covered moon and flashlight, it will demonstrate to students how the eclipse works.

“I feel like when they get to know the world they live in a little better, when they get to learn about how things are interacting, I feel like it just becomes a little more interesting to be living on this planet,” says Sherrill.

Over in Ashley Tiemann’s 8th grade science lab, she’s putting the finishing touches on the classroom while thinking about what it will be like when kids fill it up on Monday.

VIDEO: Pearland Junior High East students check out eclipse on first day of school

“Students have so many questions,” Tiemann says. “I’m excited to see what they know about the eclipse when they come in.”

Students will all get a pair of eclipse glasses before they head across the street to watch the eclipse from the stadium risers. The celestial celebration serves a perfect segue into teachers’ planned curriculum, complete with models and handouts.

SEE RELATED: Why you need real eclipse glasses on Aug. 21

“In eighth grade science, we talk about earth science, life science, so we talk about the moon, solar system, we get into space,” explains Damon Mattox.

The eclipse, though, is providing a real-world experience that could change students’ world view all together.

“If we can use this moment to inspire one kid to want to get involved in science or STEM, who knows? We might have the next Bernard Harris, the next Ellen Ochoa or the next Neil Armstrong among us,” Mattox says.

Though students will only see about 65 percent totality when it comes to the solar eclipse, another one is slated for 2024. It will be closer to 99 percent here. Teachers say this is a great warmup for the big one seven years from now.

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