The Solar Eclipse-A Unique Teaching Opportunity

On August 21st, 2017, we will see something amazing. For the first time in over 30 years, there will be a total solar eclipse. This is when the moon comes between the sun and the earth, blocking the sun. This year, the total eclipse will travel across North America. Other parts of the world will see a partial eclipse. NASA has a wide variety of resources and information about the eclipse. These resources include the times and locations of the total eclipse and an interactive map that has the times of the total and partial eclipse all around the world.

With the eclipse, there are new possibilities for teaching that take advantage of it. These lessons include science, technology, geography, history, and English. There are some organizations that offer educational programs for the eclipse, including NASA, PBS, the American Astronomical Society, and the Astronomical Society of the Pacific.

Each site has lessons for different grades and subjects. This excited me; it gave me some ideas to teach using the eclipse in my non-science classroom. There were ways for elementary teachers to fold the eclipse into a full day or more of lessons. Each of those four sites includes scientific information and lessons. They also have links to stories and legends about solar eclipses throughout the world.

Since eclipses have always been a big deal, there are many historical accounts about previous ones available. Eclipses used to be seen as a sign of the end of the world, and because of this, there are also many legends and tales from around the world. Some of these stories are available in a pdf, while others are bundled together in book-form. There are also many resources and stories about the 2017 eclipse that are available online.

One book that I found was “Where Did the Sun Go? Myths and Legends of the Solar Eclipses Around the World Told with Poetry and Puppetry,” by Janet Cameron Hoult. Available on Amazon, this resource is for lower elementary students. It helps the stories of the eclipse come to life. “Someone is Eating the Sun” follows animals and their reactions to the eclipse. Students could also write their own reactions to the eclipse. Maybe they could even compare their experiences with historical records.

Although there are literary and historical lessons, the most obvious connections to the eclipse are the science ones. This a perfect opportunity to teach students about the eclipse and the earth’s rotation, but it is also a chance to talk about astronomy. There are some fun geography projects, like plotting the route of the eclipse on a map. It could be interesting to examine the way that animals react to the eclipse or to talk about how the human eye works and the ways that we perceive light. Finally, if you’re looking for some experiments, NASA has plenty of them.

If you don’t have glasses, there is a way to watch the live stream of the eclipse on NASA’s website. NASA also has information on how to watch the eclipse safely. The hashtag #TeachEclipse2017 will be used on Twitter to help teachers connect to each other. The eclipse on August 21, 2017 will be an experience that no one will forget. The eclipse is a unique educational opportunity that we can use to teach our students. From astronomy to writing, there are many lessons that we can do using the eclipse.

Be safe, and enjoy the eclipse!

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