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  • CJ Woodford

2021 Eclipse Project

In anticipation of the June 10, 2021 Annular Solar Eclipse, Discover the Universe got to work how to support Canadian communities in the path of annularity. We wanted to ensure communities and schools in prime positioning were equipped with the tools to safely view the eclipse. Our original scope for this project was small: contact schools and education centres within the path of anularity to send them educational material with eclipse glasses for viewing the event as a culmination of their learning. As we started learning more about the lands and communities in the path of annularity, our goals grew to include designing educational material, collaborating with international partners, and making connections with remote communities which we would not have been able to reach on our own.

We took a lot of time at the beginning to research every community we could locate in the path of annularity. We crawled through Google Maps to identify each community, and in our search learned more about each one. We learned that some schools were unnamed, because they only existed to temporarily do the job of a school that burned down last year. We also learned that one community no longer had its own education centre and bussed students to a neighbouring community. We found that many places spoke several different languages, and offering our resources solely in English and French wouldn’t serve the people we wanted to reach. By the end of our initial search, we had identified 92 potential schools across Northern Ontario, Northern Quebec, and Nunavut which service a population of just under 73,000 people. We also realized the best way to communicate science about the eclipse to this diverse population was to deliver it in accessible, familiar formats.

Being an organization dedicated to astronomy education, this was the perfect opportunity to design and create educational resources about solar eclipses and provide that material to teachers within the path of annularity and across Canada. We began creating videos, presentations, and infographics on safety information (which would be understood regardless of language). Working with Wintranslation, a translation services company specializing in Indigenous languages, we were able to identify which languages were spoken in those regions. While we weren’t able to provide complete translations for all of our material, we were able to produce information sheets in English, French, Inuktitut (Baffin), Inuktitut (Nunavik), Western Ojibway, James Bay Cree, Swampy Cree, and Oji-Cree. In addition to the goal of providing educational material and eclipse glasses to schools in the path of annularity, we adopted a secondary goal of focusing on communities that do not often receive science education offers and are otherwise remote.

A late addition to the project, which quickly became a key component, was the video featuring Innu astrophysicist Laurie Rousseau-Nepton. She shares a couple of the Inuit Peoples and First Nations stories about solar eclipses. We worked with the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope, where Laurie works, and the Dunlap Institute to get subtitles in several Indigeneous languages and dialects. In addition to the six languages mentioned above, we were also able to create Innu and Mi’kmaq subtitles.

As we started reaching out to teachers, school boards, outreach groups, and personal contacts, our endeavour took off. As we announced we’d be working to meet the estimated needs of these well-positioned communities, we were met with unprecedented enthusiasm from educators and schools across the country. This was the first time we’ve initiated a project of this scale and impact, and we are overjoyed with the incredible response. In total, we were able to send 267 kits, which included 20,880 eclipse glasses, to 86 communities in and around the path of annularity. As we check tracking numbers and send emails with expected arrival dates, we are overjoyed by the impact and scale we reached through this project.

We learned so much through this project; we hope this is only the beginning of a collaboration with the many schools we reached. We look forward to hearing about everyone’s eclipse viewing experience!


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