The Great American Eclipse

Millions of people all across the United States will be looking at the sky on Monday August 21. There is a sense of excitement and anticipation in people of all ages. This is a great opportunity to engage with youth in your program — even if you miss the eclipse itself!

What Do I Need To Know?

A solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes in front of the sun and obscures it. But why is this so exciting? First, this is a total solar eclipse which will be a scene of unimaginable beauty. The moon will completely block the sun, daytime becomes a deep twilight, and the sun’s corona shimmers in the darkened sky. Second, the eclipse will be visible all across the county. Finally, the most exciting thing is that the path of totality will fall across the US from coast to coast. To understand, prepare for, and view the eclipse, check out the Great American Eclipse guides.

How Can I Practice Safety?

In out-of-school time programs, safety is always a priority, and the eclipse has some unique safety concerns. Looking directly at the sun during the eclipse can cause damage to eyes, so be sure to practice safe viewing with youth. One way to safely watch the eclipse is to build a pinhole projector from everyday items. Eclipse glasses or solar filters are another option, but be sure the eclipse glasses are reputable! You can also watch a live stream of the eclipse from NASA.

What Should I Expect?

An eclipse begins as the shadow of the moon slowly crosses the sun. It will take a minute to reach totality where shadow obscures the sun and only the corona is visible. NASA will be doing some special research during this part of the eclipse. Your students can be part of the research through the GLOBE Observer citizen science project by tracking temperature changes during the eclipse. For about two minutes, the sun will be fully obscured. Take time to look at the chromosphere, notice the stars, and how different everything feels. Finally, it will take a few minutes for the sun to slowly emerge from the moon’s shadow. Enjoy the experience and share it with others with #Eclipse2017.

How Can I Engage Youth?

Use this opportunity to integrate technology into your program by having youth capture their eclipse experience through a video or audio recording — but be sure you encourage them to experience the eclipse because it will be 28 years before they have another experience like this. You also can follow up the experience by learning more about the moon. Check out the Click2Science video-based learning module, Using Active Learning Strategies, to get more ideas to build on the eclipse experience. There are also great learning resources available specifically designed for the eclipse. 

Most Importantly, don't forget to enjoy this great opportunity to make science fun and exciting!