mjordan2@sdale.orgSeven visually impaired Springdale Public Schools students experienced the historic April 8 total solar eclipse in Morrilton at an event featuring NASA representative Denna Lambert.

Lambert, who is blind, is the lead for NASA’s Early Stage Innovations and Partnerships program. Originally from Little Rock, she’s been at the forefront of advocating for inclusivity in space exploration and technology.

“She is an innovator and has broke so many glass ceilings,” said Christi Dixon, Arkansas Chapter Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired board member.

The eclipse event was offered by Arkansas Department of Education’s Educational Services for the Visually Impaired and the Arts Council of Conway County, she said. ESVI is dedicated to raising awareness about blindness and low vision.

Lambert, 41, shared her personal experiences with participants and the value of the eclipse for NASA research, answered students’ questions and ate lunch and experienced the eclipse with the students.

“I want them to know they can do science as well,” Lambert said, noting visual impairment isn’t prohibitive to learning. “There are tools that can help them in the active scientific process.”

mjordan2@sdale.orgFifth through 12th-grade students from Springdale and Har-Ber high schools, Southwest Junior High School, Kelly Middle School and Sonora and Westwood elementary schools participated in the event, said Frances Way, teacher of the visually impaired with Springdale Schools.

About 75 people participated in the event, 18 of whom were students, Dixon said.

There are more than 700 visually impaired students in Arkansas schools, she said, and about 35 in Springdale Public Schools, said Alyssa Rasnick, district teacher of the visually impaired.

It was important for the students to participate in an event designed to communicate the eclipse experience to visually impaired students, Rasnick said.

“Their experience is going to be completely different than their classmates,” she said.

The special event was featured at the Rialto Community Arts Center and showcased artwork created by visually impaired students, as well as a variety of tactile tools and hands-on activities for participants to explore and learn from.

The students used tactile graphics to learn about the total solar eclipse, which Lambert said Arkansas hasn’t experienced for 117 years. The next total solar eclipse will be in 2044, followed by another in 2045.


The small town of Morrilton has a population of about 7,100 people and was an ideal place to experience the event, she said, noting the city was in the path of totality for more than four minutes.

The path of totality occurs in locations where the moon completely blocks the sun’s face from view during a total solar eclipse, according to NASA. The total solar eclipse occurred across North America from Mexico to Northwest Canada, with Springdale experiencing a near-total eclipse of about 98%.

Event participants experienced the eclipse using safety glasses, auditory apps and a LightSound device that communicated changes in the amount of light during the eclipse with sounds of varying pitches.

Mario Pacheco, an eighth-grader from Southwest Junior High School, used one of the sound devices to experience the eclipse.

“I think it was really cool,” Pacheco said. “When the sun was coming up, it went higher pitch.”

He said he also noticed changes in the surrounding sounds.

“I think the birds stopped chirping for a few minutes,” Pacheco said.

mjordan2@sdale.orgPetzy Jibbwa, a Kelly Middle School seventh-grader, used eclipse safety glasses to experience the eclipse and said she liked the bright ring that formed around the sun during totality.

“I thought the experience was very amazing and very interesting,” she said.

Lambert said she hopes students were inspired to explore their scientific potential through the event.

“Someone who is blind isn’t just someone who stays at home,” she said, encouraging students to not let others’ misconceptions about their blindness become their truth.

“Stay curious,” Lambert encouraged the students. “Keep asking questions.”