Solar Eclipse 2017 – Resources and Links to View (and Use in Math/Science class….)

I think by now most American’s are aware that there is a full solar eclipse coming on August 21. I have friends traveling to different parts of the country (Wyoming, South Carolina) just so they can see the complete eclipse instead of just a partial. It’s big deal. There has been a lot of talk about how to view the eclipse safely – yes people, you can damage your eyes and/or go blind if you look at the eclipse without some type of protective eye wear unless it is in complete totality (i.e. the sun is completely covered by the moon). If there is even a sliver of sun showing, eye damage is possible, so why risk it? Apparently there is a shortage of eclipse glasses – and regular sun glasses don’t cut it. Later in this post I will provide a way to make a device to see the eclipse without looking directly at it for those of you who did not jump on the eclipse glass ordering craze!

This is a rare occurrence and there are many sites and resources out there to help collect data, track the eclipse, watch it live streamed. I’ve compiled a list of sites and resources that provide lots of options that you can use personally or use with students. Lot of math and science questions and connections that can be made!

  1. Space.Com – lots of links here to where to see the eclipse, how to track it, how to livestream, safety, etc.
  2. State-by-State Map – also Space.Com but the slide show focuses on time and where to see the eclipse by state
  3. Also shows where, when and how, with some great visuals and suggestions for safety
  4. A great resource – click on the different links to prepare, find maps, discussions on what an eclipse is, etc.
  5. Science Space Institute – they have an app that will allow you to explore real-time images of the solar eclipse
  6. Astronomy Magazine – 25 facts about the solar eclipse – (good resource to use with students!)
  7. – very cool map that if you click on it (path of eclipse) it will show date, time, location
  8. USA Today – lots of resources here, with an important one – the FAKE eclipse glasses that have gone on the market – beware!
  9. The Washington Post – some fun facts about the sun, moon, eclipse – great for students
  10. Sky & Telescope – lots of links to where, when, education resources all connected to the eclipse
  11. Eclipsophile – interesting facts about each state in the path of totality – great math/science stuff here!

As you can see, there is a plethora of information on the solar eclipse out there to explore, much of which for you teachers out there, can become some really interesting math and science exploration and discussion.

Let’s end with some links to making your own SAFE eclipse viewer, because again, you do NOT want to look directly at the eclipse, especially partial, with the naked eye. Indirect viewing (or watch it livestream via some of the links above). Here are a few different links that show different ways to create your own eclipse viewers, and I have included a video at the end as well.

  1. NASA – using things from around your house (well, only if you have binoculars)
  2. National Geographic – uses stiff pieces of white cardboard. This is designed for use with students.
  3. – pinhole box (so need a box, duct tape, scissors, white paper…)
  4. – this involves carboard and a camera (those of you wanting to take pictures)
  5. USA Today – this involves a cereal box, aluminum foil, scissors, white paper – simplified pinhole box
  6. Exploratorium – this has several methods, and even has the same scientist from the NASA as one option
  7. Youtube – lots of videos on youtube on how to make an eclipse viewer.  I liked this one because it was simple and efficient.

Below is a video on making your own eclipse viewer. I chose this one because it was simple and uses items easily found around the house:

Summer Vacation – Use Your Experiences to Create Engaging Lesson Ideas

Sea Turtle at the Big Island, HI. How long do they live? How far do they travel??

I know most students and teachers this time of year are very familiar with Alice Cooper’s song “School’s Out for Summer”  (Seniors are probably focused on the line “school’s out forever….”  Maybe even some teachers!)  No doubt, summer is a time of rejuvenation for students and teachers – a much needed break, both mentally and physically. Note: Those of you who do not teach, and see teachers as having it ‘easy’ with the summers off, might try to spend some time in a teachers shoes before making those ridiculous assumptions, or read up a bit on what teachers actually do (they work more than 40 hours per week) and why summer breaks are so important.

Summer break is fast approaching for many, and some may have even started theirs. I remember those first couple of weeks literally not wanting to even look at anything related to school, students, or teaching. But – as most teachers will attest to, there comes a point where summer vacation weaves into professional learning or preparing for the next school year to begin. We never really turn off completely – we take classes to learn something new, or research some new technology or applications we want to try in class next year, or we revamp some lessons from the previous year. Summer vacation always ends up, at some time or other, connected back to teaching and learning – either personally for our own professional growth, or related to how we can be even better the next school year for our new group of students.

For me personally, everything I do always has me thinking of ways to create an interesting lesson for my students. It’s that pervasive idea that whenever possible, connecting the real world back to what students are learning will make the learning engaging and relevant. Just last week, sitting on the beach in Sea Isle City, NJ, watching this big machine out in the water that was dredging sand to replenish Avalon Beach, all I could think about were questions I would want my students to investigate.  Just a few of my questions, as I sat there:

  • How much sand is being pulled up? Is it from the same spot (my observation, since the dredge is in a different location each day, is that no it is not)
  • What happens to the sea animals and plant life that are ‘dredged’ up with the sand? Or, is there a filter that only allows sand in?
  • What are the impacts on the sea life?
  • How many hours a day do the dredges run? (seems like 24 hours to me!)
  • How long does beach replenishment last? (if you don’t have any storms to wash it all back to sea) How long does it take to replenish a beach?
  • How many pounds of sand is needed and where do they place the sand?

Lots of questions just from sitting and watching. What a great #STEM lesson this would be for students – there’s math, there’s science, there’s engineering and there’s definitely technology – it’s quite the endeavor. There is probably a ton of data out there and information about sand restoration projects, so you could have students researching, doing the math, checking out the science, investigating the machines used and the manpower needed. I did an initial search and found a couple articles already where I learned things like the grain size of the sand determines where the dredge pulls sand from (has to match the beach they are replenishing).  Pipelines are created to carry the sand from the dredge to the beach (so, how big are those pipelines? What happens after they ‘finish’ – do the pipes get removed?) Sometimes this is done to protect sea life, often times to protect commercial and residential properties, so this then begs the questions such as what’s the cost (money wise and to the environment), who benefits, what are the potential dangers and damage (to environment/sea life, etc). Here’s just a few articles I found.

My point here is not to give you a lesson on beach restoration. Instead, my point is that I was just sitting on the beach, enjoying my vacation, and saw the

Two clear streams in Costa Rica that when they meet, the chemicals in them react and turn the water blue. Why

machinery and started thinking. Posing questions. Realizing that there could be an amazing #STEM lesson here, which got me excited and doing research and yes – vacation or not – planning for teaching.  I think it is a natural tendency as a teacher to see a ‘lesson’ pretty much anywhere we go, which is what I want to emphasize here. Even on vacation, if you have a great idea based on something you are doing or seeing, some idea you think would be an engaging lesson, go with it. Take some pictures. Write down some ideas. Do some research. Use your own experiences and ‘time off’ to discover teaching ideas and spark your own enthusiasm for the next school year. Bring your vacation into your classroom and build relevant, real-world, multi-content lesson ideas that will spark student engagement, questioning, critical thinking and problem-solving.

Enjoy yourself and your summer, but never stop learning and looking for great ideas to bring back to your classroom.