Ways to Explain Solar Eclipse to Your Kids

The 21st of August will bring with it a complete solar eclipse in some places, while a partial solar eclipse in others. It is a good opportunity to introduce your kids to aid them in understanding the fascinating goings-on in the sky above. An eclipse in itself is a pretty complex phenomenon to explain to young minds, but there are a number of easy ways to introduce them to what it is all about.
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Planets” by basker_dhandapani is licensed under CC by 2.0

Act it out with a simple DIY experiment
It’s pretty simple to make your own crude version of a solar eclipse at home using simple objects. All you need is a large ball (basketball or beach ball), a smaller soft ball, a dark room (for instance, a garage) and a battery-operated torch or an electric flashlight, in addition to three people. Get one person to stand stationary with the larger ball in his outstretched hands. Tell your kids that this ball is our planet earth. Next, another person needs to stand in front of the one with the ‘earth’ and turn on a flashlight, such that its light falls on the earth. This represents the sun. The third person with a soft ball now should walk around in circles slowly around the earth (between the larger ball or earth and the flashlight or sun). After this, the ‘earth’ needs to walk in circles around the ‘sun’ as well, with the ‘moon’ continuing its motion. The ‘sun’ will remain stationary throughout, as is actually the case. There will come a time when the ‘moon’ is passing between the ‘earth’ and the ‘sun’ and creates a shadow when it lines up just right.

The idea of three different people holding balls and a torch, with two of them moving around in circles may seem a bit weird, but it can be a fun way to explain the concepts of revolution and planetary motion to your kids, followed by how a solar eclipse occurs. This idea comes from Amy Mainzer, an astrophysicist at NASA. She says: ‘It’s silly fun, but it’s a good way to visualize what’s happening and get a sense for how it works – especially for young children. The idea is that the earth is traveling around the sun here and the moon is traveling around the earth, and sometimes they line up just right.

Simple worksheets about the functioning of our solar system
For kids to grasp the basic science occurring behind a solar eclipse, they need to have a proper understanding of what planets are, how they rotate on their own axes and revolve around the sun, what natural satellites (like the moon) are and how it revolves around the earth, and so on. To introduce them to the concept of our solar system, it is a good idea to begin with solar system worksheets like these for kids. For example, one worksheet talks about the features of the sun in a multiple choice format, in which the children are required to pick the correct option to complete the facts. Another talks about the different phases of the moon (such as full moon, new moon and so on) that are visible from the earth.

Once the kids are familiar with these fundamental concepts related to the functioning of the solar system, they can proceed to the worksheets that talk about how an eclipse occurs and draw it out on a printable to gain better understanding. You could always test your kids’ understanding of a particular concept by verbal questioning after he/she completes a worksheet to gauge their level of learning.

Mainzer sums it up very aptly when she says: ‘I think the main thing is, just get out there and experience it. It’s really an opportunity to be reminded of the big picture we fit into as human beings on earth.

Time to put on our special viewing glasses and look up to the heavens above with the kids!

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brionnasimpson

Author:brionnasimpson
I am an assistant teacher and my aim is to curate unique learning tips and techniques customized towards kids.

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