CSTA Classroom Science

A Multicultural and Multi-Sensory Eclipse Experience

By Maria Suwabe, Early Childhood Educator, NASA Eclipse Ambassador 

I wanted to organize an eclipse event for students and families to experience the April 8 eclipse.  Unlike other places where astronomers and astronomy sets were accessible to the public, I had to organize the eclipse event and presentation by myself. Despite this, I gathered the courage to accept the challenge with open arms, owing to the training provided by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, SoundScapes, and NASA's websites. Additionally, I received materials such as a portable eclipse ruler and stunning images of the total eclipse and eclipse path.

The first challenge was to invite people from diverse cultures to experience the eclipse. I overcame this by translating materials into Spanish, English, and Japanese and enlisting the help of some students to translate into their native languages. Additionally, this is an economically disadvantaged area of the Bay Area, where many people were unaware the eclipse was about to happen.

Photo by Bryan Goff on Unsplash

The best way to proceed was to visit classrooms and teach the children about the eclipse using visual aids such as images of the Total Eclipse and hands-on activities such as foam moons and rulers to explain how the eclipse works. These items were luckily sent to Eclipse ambassadors to help with demonstrations.

Children in TK and kindergarten were scared the sun wouldn't come back, but learned it will just be hiding like in hide and seek. Some kindergarten children posed interesting questions, such as “how the sun feels when the moon blocks it” and “if eclipses impact ocean waves”. We investigated these questions by exploring how it feels to be blocked and seeking the expertise of a local scientist. Our findings revealed that ocean waves are affected by eclipses. 

On eclipse day, with permission of the school, I utilized the school cafeteria to display the live stream of the eclipse by NASA. Outdoors, the children wore their glasses when looking at the sun.

I had the kindergarten to second grade students draw what they saw on the ground with chalk and pinhole viewers, while older students studied shadows using pinhole viewers, compared notes, drew, wrote observations, created poems, songs, dances for the eclipse and lined up like the eclipse to observe it.

The most fascinating sight was children pouring water on the floor to observe the eclipse. They were simply enjoying the phenomenon. Some parents watched with their kids, explaining that what they saw on screen was what they had seen when they were children in Mexico. They discussed their cultural beliefs while the children giggled, exclaimed 'wow,' and laughed.
Following the eclipse, the children kept their glasses and continued to observe the sun, waiting for the next eclipse to occur.

After the eclipse day, the Astronomical Society sent an eclipse kit for the blind at my request, complete with braille information and tactile cards to experience the eclipse's appearance. Our special needs classes were thrilled with the cards' tactile feel, and teachers were happy to be included in the experience.

Hands-on learning, play, and community education are essential. As an Early Childhood Educator, I believe schools and communities should collaborate in learning and exploration. Science can inspire future space explorers, and we must provide children with encouraging adults to nurture their scientific interest.

As a NASA Partner Eclipse Ambassador I hope to continue to bring these kinds of experiences to more audiences.



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