Eclipnics, Planet Painting, and Other Ways to Celebrate the Total Solar Eclipse

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This August holds an exciting surprise for children (and most adults!) across America: a total solar eclipse! August 21st will mark the first total solar eclipse to occur all across the continental United States since 1918.

Leading up to and during the eclipse, children’s museums across the country are planning programs to excite young visitors’ imaginations and help them learn about science and astronomy.

Here are a few ways ACM member museums plan to help visitors get the most out of eclipse day.

  • The Children’s Museum of the Upstate in Greenville, SC won the astronomical lottery. They’ll be inside the “path of totality” — the area where viewers will see a total rather than partial eclipse of the sun! The museum plans to hand out eclipse shades to protect viewers’ eyes and host a plethora of space-related programs, including moon phase activities, an eclipse-themed story time, and activities about women in astronomy. Even before the big day, guests can visit museum programs to learn about coronas, safe viewing practices, and more.

Is your museum in “the path of totality”? Find out with this interactive map from NASA. If the answer is no, that’s okay! Your location will likely still experience a partial eclipse. Here’s how children’s museums outside the path are celebrating:

  • Sciencenter in Ithaca, NY, is live-streaming NASA’s five-hour long broadcast of the eclipse as it moves across the U.S. What better way to give visitors the full experience?
  • Stepping Stones Museum for Children, in Norwalk, CT, also plans to show the livestream. Plus, visitors will get to decorate their own unique pair of eclipse glasses!
  • Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley, CA, is getting ahead of the game. Their “Solar Eclipse – 2017” planetarium show is already running, preparing guests to get the most out of the event. The show takes viewers through our solar system to understand how and why solar eclipses happen.
  • Children’s Museum of Atlanta is hosting a day full of eclipse-themed activities, from a glow-in-the-dark dance party, to a “Super Spectacular Science Show,” to an eclipse model explained by a STEM educator.
  • Portland Children’s Museum is throwing their own Solar Eclipse Viewing Party, including fun crafts like a solar system chalk drawing project, “planet painting,” creating a pinhole camera, and a rocket launch!
  • The Museum of Discovery, in Little Rock, AK, has another fun approach: they’re planning an “eclipnic” — a picnic lunch leading up to the big event! Guests are invited to bring a lunch and enjoy some hands-on fun while learning about the science behind the eclipse.

In case you need a little inspiration, here are a few activities children’s museums across the country are planning:

  • Free shaded glasses for viewing the eclipse. Safety first, so make sure to hand out shades and instruct your visitors on safe viewing practices! You can find a list of reputable vendors here.
  • Planetarium shows. A planetarium show is an amazing way to show guests what to expect from the solar eclipse. Running a show before the big day helps explain science concepts so the actual event makes more sense to all.
  • Scientific demonstrations. Build a solar system mobile, or model the science behind an eclipse with common objects like hula hoops!
  • Pinhole cameras. These simply constructed cameras provide a safe and scientifically fascinating way to view an eclipse.
  • Activities for younger children. Don’t forget to include fun crafts for younger viewers! This could include tasks like decorating glasses, painting space-themed pictures, or making sun or moon decorations.

How is your museum celebrating the 2017 total solar eclipse?

Susannah Brister is Office Manager at the Associations of Children’s Museums (ACM). Follow ACM on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.