The upcoming solar eclipse is a terrific opportunity to discuss our solar system with your students. If you have a classroom full of children and want them to enjoy the eclipse, it’s critical that you have eclipse glasses for everyone. If you don’t have glasses for everyone, there are still ways to enjoy the eclipse.

Start with Shadow Puppets

For very little children, the simplest way to talk about the eclipse with your students is to engage them in studying shadows. Putting any object in front of a light source will create a shadow. You can incorporate this simple event into a variety of lessons.

You can talk to your students about color. What color is a shadow on a white wall? Is it gray or tan? What about on a pink piece of paper or a purple piece of fabric? Shadows on different shades and textures can actually create a wide array of new colors.

Another option is to have children practice tracing around shadows. A leaf over a light source can give them a clean edge to follow and copy with paper and pencil.

Incorporate Safety

Obviously, solar eclipse viewing is a safety risk. Now is also the time to talk about general safety outdoors. Sunlight can create a great deal of heat build-up. With the right tools, you can invite older children to study what sunlight does to white surfaces, dark surfaces, and bare metal.

Study Animals

The time around a solar eclipse can also be a terrific time to talk about animals. What’s a nocturnal animal? How does their behavior differ from the squirrels and rabbits that can be seen in the daylight? How might a solar eclipse impact the behavior of nocturnal animals?

If your classroom includes animals and you can get access to a camera, study the animals in your space during non-school hours. What does the animal do overnight? Are they busy in their cage, or are they more active during the day when students are in the room?

Students can also observe their own pets at home. Do their dogs and cats sleep all night, or are they up and active after dark? Patterns of light and dark can have a huge impact on animal behaviors. The days before and after a solar eclipse are a terrific time to discuss these events.

Find a Shaded Viewing Space

Getting glasses for everyone may not be possible or practical. The solar eclipse will create a huge change in shadow patterns. If there’s a tree on the playground, consider inviting children to stay under the tree and study the ground.

If there aren’t trees that offer shade, consider putting up a piece of lace or a piece of trellis that children can stay under. As the solar eclipse passes, the shadow pattern will become fractured.

The sun is critical to all life on Earth. It sets our calendars and impacts our behaviors. Changes to the impact of the sun are rarely temporary or short-lived. A solar eclipse offers educators and students a remarkable learning opportunity.