Preparing for the Great American Eclipse

Unless you live under a rock, you’ve probably heard that on Monday, we are going to experience the “Great American Eclipse,” a solar (or lunar, I suppose), event that will literally stretch from sea to shining sea. The continental US hasn’t had such an event since before I was born, and St. Louis hasn’t experienced a total solar eclipse since before Columbus came to the New World! Seriously, it is going to be as DARK AS NIGHT in the MIDDLE OF THE DAY in places experiencing the totality!!! If that doesn’t stir at least a little something in your soul, I’m not sure you’re really alive. Of course, the reactions to the eclipse range from “Who cares?” and “I’m over the hype!” to “Science is cool, and I feel fortunate to get to experience this!” and “This is a religious experience!!!” not to mention everything in between!

As we live in the path of totality (and, let’s face it, are a pretty nerdy family), we fall at the “Science is cool!” end of the scale, and we’ve been preparing for the eclipse for months. Our preparations have focused on three areas:

  • The Science of the Eclipse–This has been a huge area of our focus as a family and as a school. In addition to the approximately one zillion books we have about space in our house, we have also been learning about The Great American Eclipse and eclipses in general at the St. Louis Science Center. They’ve been running a star show for months focused on the event, and not only was it very informative, we also received free solar filters with our admission. Which leads us to…
  • Eclipse Safety–Safe viewing of any eclipse is obviously a top priority. Because this eclipse is covering so much of the country (all 50 states will experience at least part of it!), and probably also thanks to social media, people are extra concerned about this event. It doesn’t help that there have been sales of counterfeit solar filters, so first of all, double-check and make sure yours are safety approved. Once you’re good to go, make sure you use them properly. Look down at the ground, put them on (and, in my opinion, keep holding them in place to prevent slippage), and then look at the eclipse. When you’re done viewing the event, look down at the ground again before removing them. They’re also not recommended for extended use, so keep your viewing times short, and remember, NO PEEKING! Please, enjoy the eclipse (safely), but remember, eye damage is real, and it is permanent…you don’t want to mess around with it! You can also make a good, old-fashioned pinhole viewer if you’d like.
  • The Story–This is the part of the eclipse that most interests me. I love thinking about how ancient civilizations, who didn’t have the scientific knowledge we take for granted today, viewed events such as this. We have read about some ancient myths that attempted to explain eclipses (many involved a story about a small animal such as a rabbit or a frog eating the sun!), and they are fascinating. But apart from the stories different cultures told, we’ve tried to put ourselves into the shoes of the individuals. What did they feel? Confusion? Amazement? Wonder? Certainly fear, and likely some had beliefs that the world was ending. This is a great opportunity to try to see things from a very different point of view!

So we have planned and prepared for the eclipse since before the summer began. In addition to the mandatory (safe) eclipse viewing on Monday, we also have some fun things planned for the day, including special foods (of course), and a reunion of our all-girl band to rock out “Total Eclipse of the Heart.”

What are you doing to make this once-in-many-lifetimes event memorable?

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