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Tracing the Eclipse with Kids

Composite image of a solar eclipse by NASA

The World Wide Web is full of great ideas for activities you can do with kids in preparation for the eclipse. There are not a whole lot of activities out there for what to do during the eclipse though. Any parent or caretaker will attest though that kids need to be occupied for maximum enjoyment for all.

While the totality phase of the total solar eclipse is only at most a little over 2 1/2 minutes, the partial phases before and after totality can last up to 2 hours on either side. Not many will be looking up that whole time, so to help occupy the minds of all ages, you should plan for some small, minimalist type activities. Something that will keep your minds active but don't require a lot of materials or planning time.

Below you will find a step-by-step guide on how to trace the eclipse with your friends and families to not only engage the younger minds, but to create something that commemorates this once in a life time experience.

Two pieces of white cardstock with hole-punch in the middle of one.

The supply list is simple. Two sheets of paper and a pencil or two.

-Gather two pieces of cardstock and punch a small hole in the middle of one of the pieces.

-Gather at least one pencil.

A diagram showing the cards placement in relation to the sun.

With your back towards the sun, the adult should hold the cardstock with the hole in it at an angle above the plain cardstock without the hole. The plain cardstock without the hole should be flat against the ground or a table.

Hold the top card (with the hole) out next to you. Let the sunlight pass through the hole of the top cardstock piece and adjust the paper so the sunlight is projecting onto the bottom cardstock piece.

This is the projection of the sun and during the eclipse you will be able to watch the shadow of the moon as it crosses in front of, or "takes a bite out of" the sun!

Picture of a hand tracing the eclipse.

During the partial phases of the eclipse, the moon will cover more of the sun every few minutes. To capture this progress, allow the child to trace the projection. If you look at the picture, you can see that we are tracing the very bright light coming through the hole in the top cardstock.

This activity can be done in intervals every 15-30 minutes during the partial phases of the eclipse.

As long as your back is to the sun, you do not need any additional safety equipment and children of all ages can participate. For the times when you want to look directly at the moon's progress as it crosses over the sun, be sure to wear your solar safe eclipse glasses. All participants of the Summer Learning Challenge (SLC) should have recieved a pair of certified, solar safe eclipse glasses. If you haven't recieved yours yet, it's not too late to stop into any Richland Library location and sign up for SLC.

Image of finished, labeled tracing of eclipse.

Remember, this is a once in a lifetime event, so use this opportunity to take away something memorable from the experience.

Be sure to label your tracings with the date and time (especially if you do multiple tracings). Then, of course, don't forget to sign your name!