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  • CJ Woodford

Why should schools engage with the April 8 total solar eclipse?

There is a lot happening around the eclipse, from genuine excitment to runaway anxiety. We want to set the record straight on why schools should engage with the April 8 total solar eclipse and ensure that no student is left inside during this once in a lifetime event!

In this blog post we cover everything you need to know:

Check out our eclipse page for more information, resources, and events on all-things-eclipse!

What is the April 8 2024 total solar eclipse?

A solar eclipse is a mesmerizing event that occurs when the Moon passes in between the Earth and the Sun, causing the Sun to cast a shadow of the Moon onto the Earth. A total solar eclipse is a special type of solar eclipse, which is when the Moon is closer to Earth in its orbit and blocks out all of the Sun for a portion of its shadow —the path of totality. The path of totality for the total solar eclipse happening on April 8, 2024 will pass over parts of southern Ontario and Quebec, New Brunswick, a tiny piece of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and right through central Newfoundland.

Check out the map on TimeAndDate for more specific location information!

Total solar eclipses are quite literally the most incredible natural phenomena humans can experience while on the surface of the Earth. So much so that some folks dedicate their lives to being eclipse chasers. Eclipses have led to significant scientific breakthroughs, such as the discovery of the solar corona, and have been recorded in human history since at least 1223 B.C.E, with some records as old as 3340 B.C.E.

The eclipse is happening, whether you’re ready or not!

Solar eclipses happen about once every 6 months, but typically occur over an ocean. Total solar eclipses are more rare, and happen only once every 375 years on average in the same geographic location, making them a once in a lifetime event. The next total solar eclipse to pass over Atlantic Canada will be in 2079, and the next one to happen over Ontario or Quebec will be in 2144 or 2205, depending on the exact location.

We are fortunate to have the most spectacular celestial event that can be easily seen by humans on the surface of the Earth pass right over some of the most densely populated areas in Canada on April 8. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for everyone —especially for educators to engage their students with a truly unparalleled educational opportunity. There are no second chances or rain checks on this event, we only get one shot to make it count for our students!

Educators have a responsibility to students

In every curriculum, keeping students informed on current events is of paramount importance. Students turn to teachers and schools to help them navigate the plethora of information out in the world and on the internet. Students also turn to teachers and schools for help on identifying what is and isn’t safe in particular situations.

The upcoming total solar eclipse on April 8 is not without risk. Looking directly at the Sun with the naked eye is dangerous on any day, and the Sun is no more or less dangerous to look at with the naked eye during a solar eclipse. Sunglasses are not sufficient to protect your eyes for solar viewing, but there are simple, safe, and effective ways to view the Sun for any age and ability level. Educators have a responsibility to students to showcase and demonstrate safe solar observing tools and techniques so that students are ready to partake in this once in a lifetime event on April 8. Without guidance, students are at a higher risk of using unsafe observing tools and techniques.

We provide several resources to help educators get up to date on all-things-eclipse. Check out our eclipse webpage to start and sign up for one of our Eclipse 101 workshops to get eclipse essentials. For eclipse observation information specifically, check out our Eclipse Eye Safety one-pager and the Access the Eclipse blog.

Eclipse education works for every classroom

The April 8, 2024 total solar eclipse is for everyone.  No matter what grade or subject you teach, there’s a connection to the eclipse.There are direct ties to some grade and subject curriculums for solar eclipses specifically, and there’s intersection for every grade level and subject!

We provide some activity guides that are ready for use in your classroom:

Modeling eclipses with balls —good for any age, students use balloons or balls of varying sizes to represent the Earth and Moon to simulate eclipses (lunar and solar!). This activity relates best to general science, physics, and earth science curriculums.

Indirect observation of an eclipse —good for any age, students create a pinhole projector for observing a solar eclipse indirectly. This activity relates best to general science, physics, earth science, and visual art curriculums.

Model eclipses to scale —best used for students 9 years old and up, students use a scale model to represent the Earth-Moon system and create eclipses (lunar and solar!). This activity relates best to general science, physics, and earth science curriculums.

Calculate the eclipse —best used for students 9 years old and up, students calculate the relative sizes of the Moon and the Sun in the sky and compare them to other moons in our Solar System. This activity relates best to math curriculums, but can also fit with general science, physics, and earth science curriculums.

Investigate the eclipse —best used for students 9 years old and up, students investigate the eclipse for their local and personal context and explore historical and cultural connections with solar eclipses. This activity relates best to general social studies, history, geography, and journalism curriculums.

Luminosity drop —best used for students 12 years old and up, students record the drop in brightness as the Moon eclipses the Sun and learn about the relationship between brightness and luminosity. This activity relates best to general science, physics, and math curriculums.

You can also check out our suggestions for how to incorporate eclipse activities in our Eclipse 201 workshops, covering eclipse education. The Ontario Eclipse Task Force also created an education bundle with videos and activities organized by grade level, from Grade 1 through 12, that is good for teachers in any province to use.

Is it safe for students to observe the eclipse?

YES, it is completely safe for students of all ages to observe the eclipse with the right tools and techniques. You can show students how to observe the Sun safely before April 8 and even consider hosting a school event on the day to encourage student engagement.

Eclipse glasses are the simplest way to observe the eclipse, and are also safe for solar viewing. Eclipse glasses should be ISO 123212-2:2015 certified and from a reputable distributor. Check out our document on eclipse glasses for more information and suggestions for Canadian distributors. If you’re in or around Toronto, consider attending one of our upcoming in-person workshops at the University of Toronto to acquire some eclipse glasses for your students!

Indirect methods are a completely risk-free alternative to eclipse glasses. You can use them in addition to or instead of eclipse glasses depending on what you have available! Check out our indirect methods activity for ideas and suggestions, all you really need is a piece of paper to indirectly observe the Sun anytime!

Is it safe to give students eclipse glasses to observe the eclipse at home?

YES, it is completely safe to give students eclipse glasses to view the eclipse if they are undamaged and you demonstrate how to use them beforehand. It would be ideal if you can get students to practice with them before taking them home. If you already have eclipse glasses available for your school but class won’t be in session on April 8, please distribute your eclipse glasses to students to use at home with their family. This is the safest option for students to engage with the eclipse and prevents them from using unsafe tools or techniques that they might use without your guidance.

It only takes a few minutes to demonstrate how to use eclipse glasses safely and to practice using them with students in the weeks leading up to the eclipse. Most eclipse glasses have instructions on how to use them printed right on them, and so students are well equipped to enjoy the eclipse safely. If you acquired glasses from us, the instructions are right on the back of the eclipse glasses in English and French.

Consider giving students our eclipse 1-pager and eye safety sheet to take home with their eclipse glasses. This can help ensure that everyone in their household knows what to expect during the eclipse on April 8. 

Most of the learning about the eclipse should happen beforehand and you can still distribute eclipse glasses to your students on April 5 for them to use on the 8. We've created a checklist for teachers that won't be with their students to help on April 8. At the very least, you can observe the Sun on clear days leading up to the eclipse with the eclipse glasses, do eclipse activities with your students, and you can send them home on April 5 (or April 8 if you have classes before dismissal) with their eclipse glasses and eclipse materials. We also wrote a message to administrators about the April 8, 2024 eclipse if you need some condensed material to send to your school admins. Discover the Universe’s Director, Julie, also recorded a personal message to all schools encouraging you to engage with the eclipse.

We feel passionately that it is our job to disseminate accurate information on the eclipse, and we believe that educators have an important role in this as well. As a society, we don’t avoid teaching youth how to swim for fear of them drowning; we don’t avoid teaching them how to cross the street for fear of them getting hit by a car. We give them the appropriate tools and techniques to safely do the activities they want to do and trust that they will follow our guidance. The same trust extends to engaging with the eclipse for your students —by enabling them to engage instead of stripping the experience away from them completely. As educators, we not only have a responsibility to educate and guide our students, but also to ensure that we’re not encouraging them to be completely risk-averse, especially when it is well within our ability to provide them the tools and techniques to stay safe. Enabling your students to engage with the eclipse is the safest and most productive course of action schools can take for the April 8 2024 total solar eclipse.

Not convinced? Contact us!

Still not sure it’s safe or worthwhile for students to engage with the eclipse? Contact me at, or come to one of our upcoming Eclipse 101 sessions. We’re here to answer your questions and support educators across Canada who want to engage themselves and their students with the eclipse!


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