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When the Sun Goes Dark: August 21 Solar Eclipse

solar eclipse
Written by Lori Gracey

A rare solar eclipse is an opportunity for an amazing event to share with your students. Discover resources to help you plan an eclipse extravaganza!

There will be a rare total eclipse of the sun that is viewable by most of North America on August 21. While a solar eclipse happens about every 18 months, it is unusual for it to be seen by so much of the world. In fact, the table below shows the last time that an eclipse was seen in specific US cities:

Anchorage Feb. 4, 1943
Atlanta June 24, 1778
Boston Oct. 2, 1959
Chicago June 6, 1806
Dallas Oct. 23, 1623
Denver July 29, 1878
Honolulu Aug. 7, 1850
Houston Oct. 17, 1259
Las Vegas May 22, 1724
Los Angeles May 22, 1724
Miami May 13, 1752
New Orleans May 28, 1900
New York Jan. 24, 1925
Phoenix June 16, 1806
St. Louis July 7, 1442
San Francisco June 26, 1424
Seattle July 18, 1860
Washington, DC June 28, 1451

As you can see, it’s been a while for most of us! So that makes this total eclipse a big deal. Whether school is back in session or not, we should all think about how we can share this exciting event with our students. If it is the first day of school (and it will be for many students in Texas), think about kicking off the school year with an eclipse party. If school is not back yet, you can still schedule an event and invite the community to it. That’s a great way to build a sense of togetherness as school begins again. Or check out this list to see if another group is already hosting a viewing in your city.

Check out these videos for a good overview of the eclipse. This animation is just one minute, 40 seconds long while this one is a little bit longer and provides more information. You can also see a simulation of how much of the sun will be covered by the moon in your area here by just entering your location.

NASA has some great free resources for the event, including an Eclipse Party Kit  and an interactive map .  The kit provides downloadable flyers, posters, and ways to share your event via social media. Of course, they also have a bevy of AMAZING science resources to help all of us better understand what is happening during the eclipse. You can download their free Eclipse Education Kit, which has a guide that outlines safe activities to do. They’ve even got directions for building an eclipse viewer out of a cereal box. And they have lessons and experiments broken into elementary, middle, and high school levels.

Vernier is also providing some excellent online resources for the eclipse. They have tips for viewing the event and are selling glasses so that you can watch safely for just $16 for a class set of 40. And ISTE has a great blog with seven resources for teaching the solar eclipse. Finally, find some additional activities to use with this epic happening here.

Many local public libraries are holding eclipse parties and offering free eclipse glasses. You can use this website to find one near you. And you can download a free eclipse book from Bill Nye and the National Park Service here.

Finally, if for some reason you can’t watch the eclipse live, here are some sites that will be streaming it:

This once-in-a-lifetime event is something that we should definitely share with our students, our friends, and our neighbors. What will you do to celebrate?

This blog was updated with additional content on August 15, 2017.

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About the author

Lori Gracey

Lori Gracey has 28 years of experience in education, with 22 years as a curriculum and technology director. She currently serves as the executive director of the Texas Computer Education Association (TCEA) and is responsible for training technology directors, administrators, curriculum supervisors, and teachers across the country. During her nine years in this position, she has led TCEA in membership and revenue growth, helped to pay off their building and purchase a new, larger building, and implemented new conferences, partnerships with other associations, and professional development opportunities for members and non-members. She serves more than 17,000 members and oversees a staff of 21. Lori is also on the board of the Texas Society of Association Executives and SXSWedu and recently served as the Regional Program Chair for the ISTE 2017 Convention in San Antonio.

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