Solar Eclipse Activities for the Elementary Classroom

Hello darlings!  In case you've been living under a rock (and that's ok), there will be a total Solar Eclipse on August 21st, 2017 in the U.S.  Some states will experience a partial eclipse, some a total eclipse, and some none at all.  I live outside of St. Louis and we will experince a total eclipse.  We are devoting an entire day to eclipse activities at my school even though it will only be the 3rd day of school!

Solar Eclipse 

So what is an eclipse?  Unless you teach a Solar System Unit every year, you may not be absolutely certain what an eclipse is.  A Solar Eclipse occurs when the new moon passes smack dab between the earth and the sun and the moon's shadow is cast on the earth.  Of course the moon always passes between the earth and sun, but usually at an angle so we don't always end up with shadows.
I watched lots of videos to try to find the perfect ones to show my third graders.  Here are the best that I've found. There are lots of other good ones but they are a little complicated.

Here is my favorite, but they explain the 2015 Eclipse in Europe toward the end.

Steve and Andy Total Solar Eclipse

Get Ready for the 2017 Solar Eclipse

This describes the 3 types of Solar Eclipses

Live Stream Video

NASA will be hosting a live stream video of the eclipse for four hours surrounding the event.  You can find the video here. 

Eye Safety

It is of paramount importance that we stress to our students how dangerous it is to look at the sun during the eclipse.  They could cause permanent damage to their eyes even looking at the sun for a few seconds.  It is not a game or something silly.  I will be showing my students this video about eye safety.

Thankfully my district is providing safety glasses for all students.  Be careful if you are purchasing glasses.  Many glasses on amazon and other online stores are not approved by NASA.  You can find the manufactures approved by NASA here.

Create a Model Eclipse

In my classroom, I will be creating a model of the eclipse for students to manipulate.

*tennis ball

Keep the lamp (Sun) in one place. Have students take turns seeing what happens when they move the tennis ball (moon) around the globe (earth).  They should notice that when the tennis ball is between the lamp and globe that a shadow is cast on the globe.

Talk about Shadows

So why does it look like the sun is moving anyway?  Why will the shadow of the moon move across the earth?  It is very hard for students to understand that the sun isn't actually moving.  We are.  The earth is what moves around the stationary sun.  And the moon is moving around us.  Kind of complicated huh?   An easy way to physically see the change in movement of the earth is to complete some shadow drawings.

To learn about the Earth's rotation (day and night cycle), we talk about shadows and how our shadows move and grow longer or shorter throughout the day.  To do this, we go outside 4 times throughout the school day.  The kiddos partner up and trace each other's shadows.  We make sure to trace around our shoes first so that we will stand in the exact same place each time.  We also label the time, so that we can compare later. 

You can also have students create an interactive model of the earth, moon, and sun.  Use this FREE activity from More Time 2 Teach.

All you need is the activity paper, 2 brad fasteners, and scissors.

Students can move the moon and earth around the sun.  You can even make the connecting papers a little longer and fold them up to be 3D.

When will I see the Eclipse?

If you go to this website and type in your zip code, it will tell you the exact time of the eclipse and how much you will see.  It shows a short clip of what you will see. It will also tell you where you are in the path of totality.  This would be perfect to project for students to view.  You could even type in zip codes in places around the country to see the differences. 

Other Animations

Here is a real time lapse video of a total solar eclipse crossing the Pacific Ocean.  

Write and Reflect

Have students complete this FREE Solar Eclipse Journal to commemorate their experience! 

What's Included?
*journal cover
*article about types of solar eclipses
*total, partial, and annular solar eclipse graphic organizer
*comprehension page
*color the US Map for totality
*Solar Eclipse Observation page
*Memory Page

Other fun things to do!

Give each student a free Brag Tag created by Amber from TGIF to remember the eclipse!  Other ideas include adding an extra page to the journal above and taking a picture of each student wearing their eclipse glasses!  You could also bring in Moon Pies (check for allergies) to share with the class.

I hope you have a fabulous year and I hope these resources came in handy for your Eclipse DAY!

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