What Is a Solar Eclipse?
A solar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes in front of the Sun. This causes a shadow to fall on certain parts of Earth, making it appear as though the Sun has gone dark. The eclipse can only be seen from locations that fall within the shadow.
Experiencing the Solar Eclipse
The extent to which your center will be able to see the August 21, 2017 solar eclipse is based on where your center is located. If your center is located in the path of the eclipse, please plan ahead and use caution when sharing the experience with the children. Below are age-group recommendations for viewing the eclipse and suggestions for enhancing the experience for all children.
- Infant, Toddler, Discovery Preschool, and Preschool: Children in these classrooms should stay indoors during the eclipse. However, you can still involve two- and three-year-old children by talking to them about the solar eclipse and explaining it using simple language and props, as well as by sharing information through picture walks or read-alouds using one of the recommended books.
- Prekindergarten and Transitional Kindergarten: Children in these classrooms may go outdoors to view the eclipse but must wear approved eclipse-viewing glasses. Before taking children out to view the eclipse, explain what an eclipse is and share with children what they can expect to happen. Use the recommended books to show children illustrations of eclipses and to share information through picture walks or read-alouds. While outdoors, encourage children to share their observations about the eclipse. Constant supervision is required to ensure children do not take off their glasses while looking at the Sun. After viewing the eclipse, have children draw what they saw and dictate their experiences.
- School-Age: Children in these classrooms may go outdoors to view the eclipse using either approved eclipse-viewing glasses or pinhole cameras. If using pinhole cameras, plan in advance for each child to make his or her own camera using these simple instructions from NASA. Remind children not to look directly at the Sun; children should only view the eclipse while wearing approved eclipse-viewing glasses or using their pinhole cameras. In the days leading up to the eclipse, provide children with books about solar eclipses and encourage them to learn more about the different types of solar eclipses and parts of the Moon’s shadow that can be seen during solar eclipses. Share the map of the solar eclipse path with the children and have them predict how much of the eclipse or what parts of the eclipse they will see from your location. Invite children to use their journals to write about or draw pictures of their predictions, and be sure to revisit children’s predictions after viewing the eclipse.
Cowee Sam and the Solar Eclipse by Claire Suminski
Eclipses by Nick Hunter
Eddie’s Eclipse by Becky Newsom, illustrated by Pam Tucker
The Big Eclipse by Nancy Colfelt
The Day the Sun Went Out: The Solar Eclipse by Pia Lord
TOTAL Eclipse or Bust!: A Family Road Trip by Patricia Totten Espenak, graphic design by Fred Espenak
What Happens During an Eclipse? Astronomy Book Best Sellers: Children’s Astronomy Books by Baby Professor
When the Sun Goes Dark by Andrew Fraknoi and Dennis Schatz
Want to know more?
If you’d like more information about the science behind the solar eclipse and how to safely view the eclipse with young children, check out these links:
NASA: Eclipse Maps
NASA: Eclipse 101
NASA: Eclipse 101 Safety
Solar Science: All-American Total Solar Eclipse
Preparing for the Eclipse: How to safely observe the Sun with young children