On Aug. 21, a total solar eclipse will be visible from the U.S. It’ll be the first to traverse coast to coast in nearly a century. It’s perhaps one of the biggest astronomical events of the decade! During a total eclipse of the sun, the moon covers the entire disk of the Sun. While all of North America will be able to see the eclipse on Aug. 21, most of the continent will only see a partial eclipse. Here are fun and easy activities to get the kids excited about science and the upcoming total solar eclipse on August 21st!
What’s the big deal?
This is being called the Great American Total Solar eclipse! The eclipse will darken the skies from the west coast of Oregon all the way to the east coast of South Carolina. It’s the first time a total solar eclipse has passed from one coast to the other in 99 years!
The path of the total solar eclipse. Image: NASA
Since this astronomically cool event is happening at the same time many kids across the country are gearing up for back to school, it’s the perfect time to help them make some educational connections. Here are some fun ways to get kids in the solar spirit!
The best way for kids (and you!) to view the eclipse!
The only safe way to look directly at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun is through special-purpose solar filters, such as “eclipse glasses” or hand-held solar viewers. Homemade filters or ordinary sunglasses, even very dark ones, are not safe for looking at the sun; they transmit thousands of times too much sunlight. Refer to the American Astronomical Society (AAS) for a list of reputable vendors that are verified to be compliant with the ISO 12312-2 international safety standard for such products.
Track the eclipse
Hopkinsville, Kentucky, is lucky enough to have the very best spot for viewing with maximum duration and eclipse. The moon will fully block the sun for more than two and half minutes! But we can track the eclipse across a map of the United States to understand the movement of the new moon. Help kids cut out a sun/moon from construction paper that you can move across a map of the United States during the course of the eclipse. Check out live video streams on NASA’s website.
Explore the solar system!
Endless stars, glowing planets, and the joy of wondering “what exists out there” can make almost any child dream of traveling into outer space. Help them tap into that curiosity with solar system-themed projects.
Place an orange in the center of the table and call it the sun. Line up eight (or nine, if you’re counting dwarf planet, Pluto) other pieces of round fruit to represent the other planets. Teach kids a memory aid for remembering the order of the planets, such as “My very excellent mother just served us nine pizzas!” That’s the trick to remember Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto! Show kids how it takes a year for the Earth to orbit around the sun and how as it’s going around the sun, it’s spinning around its own axis once each day.
Space for Art
Gather some space-themed stickers, coloring pads, and activities. Mix in some papers, paints, and other art supplies. Scratch Art paper, with its holographic and rainbow effects is especially fun for some space-age art! Encourage kids to draw planets, stars, moons, the sun, a rocket ship, satellites, astronauts, and more!
Astronaut for a day
Make plans for an out-of-this-world space-themed day! Have kids make a simple astronaut costume. Gloves, snow boots, some strategically placed foil (wrist cuffs, arm bands), and a homemade NASA emblem pinned to their chest are all they really need. A bike helmet and ski goggles or a scuba mask complete the look. A backpack can double as a jetpack! Show kids how to move in slow motion like they are on the moon where there is less gravity. Outside, they can search for “moon rocks” that you could help them cover in foil or paint silver and black.
Have kids eat like astronauts do, by putting applesauce in a resealable plastic bag. Seal the bag almost all the way, leaving enough room for kids to insert a straw. Yum!
Create your own version of space with this printable coloring page!