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3 Solar Eclipse Teaching Ideas and Lessons for 2017

Like everyone else, teachers across the country are planning for the total solar eclipse on August 21! It’s a teacher’s dream: a scientific phenomenon is attracting the cultural attention usually reserved for sports, celebrities, and politics. Students are already excited, and that means teachers have the opportunity to turn the eclipse into an educational moment — and a memorable day at school. The eclipse teaching ideas below are a great place to start.
Of course, DonorsChoose.org teachers are already getting ready. Ms. Shelton in Oklahoma is taking the chance to integrate the arts with her STEM teaching, with an eclipse themed craft activity, and Ms. Fugitt in Missouri is upgrading her classroom’s telescopes to be eclipse ready (those telescopes are thanks to the generosity of donors last year!) Ms. Ross is bringing the learning home by encouraging her students to watch and talk about the eclipse with their families.
Here are three more solar eclipse teaching ideas to bring that excitement to your classroom.
Before you go outside, make sure you check out these safety tips from NASA. With the right equipment eclipses are safe, but students staring into the sun could seriously damage their vision!
1. Eclipse Teaching Ideas: Astronomy
The eclipse will be the sort of event that students remember for the rest of their lives, so it’s a unique opportunity to make sure they also remember the science behind it. NASA’s eclipse website is a great place to start for science class lesson plan ideas, and ISTE has put together a big list of even more resources.
If you aren’t in the path of the eclipse, NASA is livestreaming the event from every angle, including a view from the International Space Station!
2. Eclipse Teaching Ideas: English
This isn’t the first eclipse to make a cultural splash: writers have been talking about eclipses for centuries. Get your students thinking about the symbolism and beauty of the eclipse by introducing them to works from legendary writers like Annie Dillard, Mark Twain, and James Fenimore Cooper.
3. Eclipse Teaching Ideas: History
Our first record of an eclipse is over 5,000 years old, so you have plenty of history to work with! The Great American Eclipse website has a wealth of resources, including maps and other primary source materials from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. These could form the basis of a great DBQ or historical role-playing exercise. You can also dive into ancient eclipse history on NASA’s Eclipse 101 page.
Usually it is a bit of a trick to keep your knowledge from blinding you. But during an eclipse it is easy. – Annie Dillard
How are you teaching the eclipse? Let us know in the comments!

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