The Excitement of an Eclipse ...
Learning Activities Were Everywhere

(Gallery Has Seven Pictures)

Two pictures of people demonstrating the solar gravity well with marbles for planets revolving on taut cloth around a ball representing the sun in the middle.

This eclipse viewing party was not, however, just a circus, but provided an opportunity for learning in the areas of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). There were many tables to both entertain and teach, where kids could get excited about STEM ideas. Here a ball and some marbles illustrated how gravity pulls the planets (marbles) toward the sun (the ball in the middle), by drawing them down a gravity well as they revolve around the sun. The little girl in the picture on the right notices the dramatic difference in size between the sun and the earth: learning, learning, learning ... even adults learn primarily in moments of pleasure.

Two women sitting at a table with art materials

Well, there was some playfulness for the kids. At this table, volunteers helped kids cut out and decorate eclipse masks for them to wear under their safety glasses.

A Boy Scout sitting at a table with a blow-up earth and a little moon on a stick to demonstrate eclipses.

The Boy Scouts were there to help, and this one was manning a table where he could demonstrate a solar eclipse with a big blow-up globe and a little moon on a stick, with the sun playing itself, providing the illumination.

Two pictures, showing a girl making a painting on black paper with sun-screen, and a second picture showing the art-work being exposed to bright sunlight

This reporter knew to apply sunscreen before walking around with bare arms and getting a sunburn, like those hotdogs in the solar oven. But to drive the point home, participants at this table used their artistic talents to paint pictures with sunscreen on black paper, which was then hung up in the bright sun: the brilliant sun faded the black paper pretty quickly except for where the sunscreen was protecting it, creating a lovely picture, black on gray.

Pictue of the sun dial table, where kids were given materials and instructions for making their sundials

Here is another way to explore a use for the sun. Participants here could make their own sundials, and then they could tell their parents what time it was.

A young participant works with pre-prepared materials, Scissors, and color pens to make eclipse model

At this station, kids were making paper models of the sun, earth, and moon, held together with clips and paper strips; after making the model, the child could move each component (sun, earth, moon) relative to each other. In this way, the children enjoyed an art project and also were able to explore on their own how the movement of the sun, earth, and moon could result in an solar eclipse.

Young participants draw on coffee-filters with color pens, fold the filters, and dip one end in water, waiting for the water to rise in the filter by capillary action, separating the colors, demonstrating chromatography

This was not exactly solar science, but participants thought it was fun. Here colored ink was separated into different colors using coffee-filter chromatography. Who knew that ink was actually made up of different colored inks mixed together? You could prove it at this table, while demonstrating an important tool of science.

Copyright 2017 Yaakov Gridley. All rights reserved.