Jumpstart your school year with a teachable moment – Solar Eclipse 2017!
The August 21 solar eclipse is the perfect opportunity to introduce a variety of science topics along with related math, language arts, history, and social studies. Use the activities below to engage your entire homeschool family or homeschool co-op in this fascinating astronomical event. Some activities are designed for use prior to the eclipse; some are for use during the actual event. There is also a collection of activities by subject and age level to jumpstart your school year.
Proper viewing https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/safety
What will you see https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/eclipse-who-what-where-when-and-how
Consider attending an eclipse event or hosting your own event. Below is a collection of activities you can do during or before the eclipse.
Attend a Library Event
Check out this map to see if a library near you is holding an eclipse event. You can also check the eclipse 2017 page for events at museums, parks, and NASA official viewing locations.
Family fun with the DIY Sun Science app
The DIY sun Science app allows families and educators to investigate and learn about the sun at home, at school, or anywhere you go! The app provides 13 free, easy to use, hands-on activities, plus images, videos, and much more! Each activity includes material lists, step-by-step instructions, and detailed explanations.
Family Guide to the Sun
This innovative collection of puzzles, pictures, poetry and projects is designed to stimulate enjoyable co-learning experiences between kids aged 6-13 and the caring adults in their lives. The Guide assumes little or no prior knowledge about the sun or astronomy in general, and in fact addresses many popular misconceptions.
Introduce size and scale with cut out scaled images of the sun and Earth. Placing these approximately sixty-five feet apart will demonstrate the size scale and distance scale of the sun and Earth.
NASA GLOBE Observer Special Eclipse Edition
Using a free app for smart phones and tablets, NASA GLOBE Observer (NASA GO) citizen scientists record and submit environmental observations to an international research database. To participate in the NASA GO eclipse science experiment simply download the app and grab a thermometer. Observations are needed from across North America- along both the path of totality and areas experiencing a partial eclipse.
Download the app, register, and get familiar with NASA GO today – the app will automatically update when the eclipse edition is available.
Stay connected on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/nasa.globeobserver/ and Twitter: https://twitter.com/NASAGO
Life Responds – wildlife observations
Many people have noticed changes in animal behavior, birds going to sleep, cats and dogs being confused, as a solar eclipse is in progress. In this opportunity for research, you will make scientifically-valuable observations of many aspects of this behavior. Join the California Academy of Sciences in conducting research into behavioral changes in plants and animals during a total solar eclipse. (California Academy of Sciences)
Use these resources to explore the science, math, and literature associated with the eclipse and general astronomy
Use a paper plate and coin to investigate how a much smaller moon can eclipse the large sun. (Lawrence Hall of Science, DIY sun Science)
Build a shoebox solar eclipse simulator. Explore distance and proportions between the Earth, moon, and sun and investigate angular size and paths of totality. Good math connections. (NASA CONNECT, Path of Totality)
Investigate how Einstein needed a total eclipse in order to demonstrate how the sun's mass bends the light from a far away star. Good history connection and use of source documents – newspaper article from 1919. (NASA GSFC)
Math activity comparing track of a solar eclipse in Babylonian times to calculate the rate at which the day is lengthening over time. (NASA SpaceMath problem #7, see page 24 of PDF document).
Construct a model to demonstrate the moon’s orbit around the sun. Learners will also compare the strengths of the gravitational forces exerted on the moon by the sun and by the Earth.
Build a pin-hole camera out of a shoe box to calculate the size of the sun (NASA’s Eye on the sun, p 21)
Construct a pinhole projector to project an image of the sun, observe and record the size of the projected image, and calculate the diameter of the sun using the measurements and a known distance to the sun. (Touch the sun, Chabot Space Science Center, pg 64)
Language Arts, History, and Social Studies
Our Star the Sun
Part of a larger unit on the sun, this site includes lots of activities about the sun with Language Arts and Math connections. Learners can construct a model of the sun, Earth, and moon motions, observe and manipulate the 3-D models, and simulate the movement of these bodies during an eclipse. Activities culminate with a book of all the student work – including wonderful art projects – great for portfolios. (University of California, Berkeley – Project FIRST)
Native American Folklore
Explore folklore about the sky from native America as language arts and history connections. Those specific to the sun include Raven and the sun, Three-legged Rabbit, Coyote and Eagle Steal the sun and moon, Boy and the sun, sun and Her Daughter, Spider and the sun, Little Brother Snares the sun, One Who Walks all Over the Sky, Fifth World.
Cultural Myths about the Sun and Moon
Many cultures around the world have interesting myths about the sun and the moon, reflecting their importance to daily life. Discover some of the interesting beliefs of early civilizations. Compare and find similarities between different myths and cultures.
Medicine Wheel Solar Calendar and other explorations in Archaeoastronomy
This collection from the Chabot Space Center offers great activities for the whole family- such as making an ancient calendar with sidewalk chalk. This resource introduces the basics of Earth and Sun motion and provides great connections to math, and Native American history (pages 15-30). Continue the activities throughout the year and track the equinox in September and March and the solstice in December. Additional activities include an Indoor Solar Calendar (pages 31-44) and Birthday Beam (pages 45-56). Both are great family activities for building a family birthday calendar.
Science lessons beyond the Eclipse
The eclipse offers an engagement point to explore the motion of the Earth, sun, and moon and improve spatial and causal reasoning of celestial motions. These activities connect familiar phenomena such as seasons, eclipses, and moon phases from both an Earth and space perspective to improve understanding of how rotation and revolution can change the appearance of the sun and moon. Use of 3D demonstrations can enrich explanations of celestial motion that can difficult to interpret from illustrations alone. Developing a spatial reasoning behind Earth, moon, and sun motions can help with understanding more complex concepts such as the causes of seasons.
Earth, Sun, and Moon motions (Earth-based observations)
Illustrate the phases of the moon with paper plates. Create a three dimensional model of the lunar phases relative to the Earth and sun. Children construct a conceptual model through kinesthetic activities. (Lunar Planetary Institute)
Explore the dynamics of lunar phases to develop an understanding of the relative positions of our moon, Earth, and sun that cause the phases of the moon as viewed from Earth. Using a golf ball glowing under the ultraviolet light (“blacklight”) makes it easier to see the phases of the moon. (Lunar and Planetary Institute)
Earth, Moon, and Sun motions (space-based perspective)
This kinesthetic activity invites learners to use their bodies to model how these celestial bodies move relative to each other. Offers a 3D demonstration for understanding of the causes of the day/night cycle, the seasons and the cycle of lunar phases. (PUMAS)
This learner-centered activity invites the child to figure out the positioning of a ball (moon) to a light source (sun). The child constructs their knowledge of what causes the lunar phases. This activity can also be preceded with a month of moon-watching and recording first hand observations.
Construct a model to demonstrate the moon’s orbit around the sun. Learners will also compare the strengths of the gravitational forces exerted on the moon by the sun and by the Earth. (PUMAS)
In this data analysis activity, students connect the idea of the tilt and orbit of the Earth (changing of seasons) with monthly snow/ice data. Children under 8 may need additional assistance. (MY NASA DATA)
Multiple activities exploring how the Earth’s tilt, orbit, and angle of the sun’s rays influence temperature between seasons and latitudes. Investigate how Earth’s orbit as an ellipse (p. 27), construct a sun angle analyzer (p. 33), and act out the rotation and revolution motions of Earth around the sun (p.51) in kinesthetic Astronomy (NASA, Science of the sun)
In this data analysis activity, students compare near surface temperature at the time of the solstices in two different hemispheres, and see how the tilt of the Earth's axis in relationship to the sun contributes to temperature differences across the planet. (MY NASA DATA)
Compare the seasons though identifying seasonal activities and drawing scenes in each season. Then, they compare the temperature on thermometers left under a lamp for different lengths of time to explore how Earth heats more when the sun is in the sky for longer periods of time. Finally, learners use a flashlight and a globe to investigate how the spherical shape of Earth causes the seasons to be opposite in each hemisphere. This hands-on activity is an additional lesson as part of the book, Adventures in the Attic.
This activity, effective outdoors or indoors, demonstrates how insolation is affected by latitude by using a pair of thermometers, each taped to some cardboard, placed outside on a sunny day. (PUMAS)
Learners will examine the location and height of the sun relative to the seasons. (Astronomical Society of the Pacific)
For a curated list of these lessons and more science resources for your homeschooling needs, visit http://nasawavelength.org/list/1811
A collection of books you can check out from your local library and pdfs you can download.
NASA PDF - Mysteries of the Sun
This is a resource about the sun and its effects on the rest of the Solar System. Learners will watch movie clips and read a guidebook of information about space weather, solar variability, the heliosphere, Earth’s magnetosphere and upper atmosphere, as well as the solar mysteries that scientists are still studying.
NASA PDF - Our Very Own Star: The Sun
This storybook presents information about the sun, including its relationship to Earth, and its affects on our planet.
Check your local library for these and other titles about the sun and eclipses
Branley, F. (1988). Eclipse: Darkness in Daytime. New York: Harper & Row
Fowler, A. (1992). The Sun Is Always Shining Somewhere. Danbury: Children’s Press.
Gibbons, G. (1983). Sun Up, Sun Down. New York: Scholastic Inc.
Lindbergh, R. (1994). What is the sun? Cambridge: Candlewick Press.
Many misconceptions exist regarding eclipses. When approaching this science topic, it may be helpful to know what those are and how to address them. Use this resource to get started.
Teaching Planetary Sciences – Eclipses
This is the third in a series of three professional development videos that correspond to lessons taught by Andrew Cloud, an Earth and planetary sciences teacher, with a class of 9th and 10th grade students. In this lesson, Andrew introduces the concept of eclipses. Includes videos, supplemental materials, and teaching tips. (PBS Learning Media, free login required)
Educational Research about teaching the big idea of Celestial Motion
D. Heywood, J. Parker, and M. Rowlands, Exploring the visuospatial challenge of
learning about day and night and the sun's path, Sci. Educ. 97, 772 (2013).
J. D. Plummer and L. Maynard, Building a learning progression for celestial motion:
An exploration of students' reasoning about the seasons, J. Res. Sci. Teach. 51,
J. D. Plummer, Spatial thinking as the dimension of progress in an astronomy learning
progression, Stud. Sci. Educ. 50, 1 (2014).
J. D. Plummer, A. Kocareli, and C. Slagle, Learning to explain astronomy across moving
frames of reference: Exploring the role of classroom and planetarium-based instructional
contexts, Int. J. Sci. Educ. 36, 1083 (2014).
I. Testa, S. Galano, S. Leccia, and E. Puddu, Development and validation of a learning
progression for change of seasons, solar and lunar eclipses, and moon phases,
Physics Education Research. 11, 020102 (2015).