Guest Blogger

Engaging Children in the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse

On August 21, 2017, a total solar eclipse will occur, and all those in North America will be able to see at least a partial solar eclipse as the Moon’s shadow blocks our view of the Sun. The Moon’s shadow will fall directly over a 60-mile-wide area and sweep across the continental United States. Those sky watchers along this “zone of totality” will be treated to a total solar eclipse – a celestial spectacle that hasn’t been visible in the continental U.S. in nearly 40 years.

This unique opportunity can be used to engage children in science, the arts, engineering, and more. Libraries can hold special events, or conduct activities in advance, to prepare their audiences to experience the eclipse, such as making their own eclipse viewers.

It is not safe to look directly at the Sun except during the brief total phase of a solar eclipse. However, there are several ways to help children safely enjoy the eclipse. One way is by assembling their own pinhole projectors; directions on building your own pinhole projector are below. Solar viewing glasses can also be used.

NASA has assembled a variety of tools to for the eclipse. Go to and to the STAR_Net Eclipse Resource Center for information and videos about eclipses, hands-on activities, downloadable files to print your own fact sheets and brochures, suggestions for planning and promoting an eclipse party, and more. Incorporate the Eclipse MEGACAST: Live Streaming Video on August 21, 2017 as a part of your promotions and events. If the weather happens to block the eclipse at your location, the streaming video of the total solar eclipse will allow everyone to participate in this celestial event.

Building a pinhole projector:

Materials: A long tube, aluminum foil, white cardstock or index card, scissors, tape, pushpin, measuring tape

Tape the foil over one end (the top) of the tube. Use the pin to make a small round pinhole.

Cut away ¼ of the circumference of other end (the bottom) of the tube. Cut the white cardstock into a circle the same width as the tube.





Tape the cardstock to the bottom end of the tube.




Point the top end with the foil towards the Sun, making the shadow of the tube as small as possible (so that the sunlight is going through the tube).

As you move the tube, you will see a projection of the Sun. The longer the tube, the bigger the image of the Sun will be.

Learn how to facilitate activities that will have your patrons asking, “Really!?!,” and exclaiming “That’s so cool!” with the archived webinar, “Crowd-Pleasing Hands-on Activities for Your Eclipse Programs,” recorded April 26, 2017. View Presentation Slides | View WebEx Recording



(Credit for all photos: LPI)


Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at


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  2. Christine Shupla

    Librarians can also make printable pinhole projectors using 3D printers or printing and cutting out the file on cardstock:

    5 Steps for building a 2D/3D printable pinhole projector
    Materials: filament in the colors of your choice, 3D printer
    1. Download your State (.stl) file from
    2. Use a 3D printer to print your state.
    3. Check the pinholes (circle & star) for any residual filament.
    4. With your back to the sun, hold your 3D printed pinhole projector 2-3 feet above the ground.
    5. Take a picture of your shadow and share the moment with NASA on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and/or on Flickr, using #EclipseSelfie. Leave a 1-2 sentence description of your image or idea.

    You may want to try other fun ideas listed on If you do not have a 3D printer, you may do either of the following:
    1. Find a local library or a school that has a 3D printer and send them your State (.stl) file.
    2. Download the State (.pdf) file to print on cardstock paper. Punch the pinholes (circle & star).
    Then follow steps 4 and 5 above.

    For more information about the 3D printables, contact Carolyn Ng at NASA Goddard,

  3. Rdoptical

    Superb post !!!

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