As we build up to Monday’s solar eclipse, I was thinking back to the only other solar eclipse that I recall seeing. The date was May 30th, 1984. That May was the beginning of my last summer before I became a “school kid.” I would be starting kindergarten that fall. My mom ran an in-home daycare, which was great because that meant I had friends to play with every day. She had been collecting shoe boxes for a few weeks leading up to the eclipse, and on the day before the eclipse we turned them into pinhole cameras. (One fun fact for all of you who are at RSI – Dave Bradley was one of the kids that was at the daycare on the day of the eclipse).
While I don’t remember exactly what the sky looked like that day, I remember that there was a lot of excitement about the event. I also remember that there wasn’t a lot of talk about NASA approved sunglasses (maybe there was and I was too young to know about it). That day my mom reminded all the kids not to look at the sun, we took out pinhole cameras outside, and we watched the eclipse. I do remember that the big trees in our backyard were making it hard to see, so Dave and I moved to the backyard behind mine, and we had a much better view.
As many of you know, when I was still a classroom teacher, my favorite subject to teach was science, and my favorite unit was always space science. I think that my experience with the solar eclipse set me up with curiosity about outer space. As a kid I loved watching shuttle launches. I remember crying when the Challenger disaster happened. I had the chance to go to space camp during my first year as a teacher. Even today, I can get sucked into a livestream of a SpaceX launch or landing and not be able to turn away.
I know that there are some who are concerned about safety for our students, but I would hope you seriously consider finding a way to give your students an opportunity to see the eclipse. My experiences that day have helped lead to the things I am still curious about today, and for our kids it could be such a great provocation to lead into student wonder. Who knows, a future space scientist, astronaut, or science teacher could be sitting in your classroom! If you have something cool planned for the solar eclipse, share with us in the comments below!