Solar Eclipse Activities & Games

Instructor: Heather Jenkins

Heather has a bachelor's degree in elementary education and a master's degree in special education. She was a public school teacher and administrator for 11 years.

If your class is studying space, then having your students learn about solar eclipses can be a fascinating addition to their knowledge base. Use these activities and games to help students learn all about solar eclipses.

When the Sun Goes Dark

Even though solar eclipses are relatively common, students may not have ever experienced one. Watching the sun disappear during the daylight hours can help students understand how the movements of celestial objects affect one another. Let's examine some activities and games to help students learn more about solar eclipses.

Solar Eclipse Model

Have students create a model of a solar eclipse.

Materials

  • Diagrams of solar eclipse
  • Pictures and/or video of a solar eclipse happening
  • Shower curtain rings
  • Large styrofoam balls
  • Small styrofoam balls
  • Flashlights
  • Bendable metal wire (similar to coat-hanger wire)
  • Paint/paintbrushes (optional)

Teacher Directions

  1. Show the class diagrams of a solar eclipse to help them understand the position of the sun, Earth, and moon.
  2. Have students view pictures and/or video of a solar eclipse happening, and discuss how an eclipse occurs.
  3. Divide the class into small groups. Give each group a large styrofoam ball, small styrofoam ball, shower curtain ring, flashlight, and about 1 ft. of bendable metal wire.
  4. Have students place the large Styrofoam ball on the shower curtain ring so it doesn't move. This ball represents the Earth. The small Styrofoam ball represents the moon. If you have time, groups can paint these balls to look like each celestial object.
  5. Stick one end of the wire into the top of the Earth, and stick the other end into the top of the moon.
  6. Bend the wire so that the moon seems to be floating around the Earth. Students should be able to move the wire and watch the moon ball revolve around the Earth ball.
  7. Have students place a flashlight approximately 12-18 in. away from the model they created. Students should turn on the light and move the moon into the path of the flashlight's light. This will create an example of what a solar eclipse would look like on the Earth's surface as the moon moves through the path of the sun's rays.

Discussion Questions

  • How did the shape of the shadow on the Earth's surface change as the moon passed through the sun's rays?
  • What are the relative positions of the Earth, moon, and sun during a solar eclipse? What conditions must be present for this to happen?

Solar Eclipse Puzzle Race

Have students test their knowledge of solar eclipses as they race to complete a fact puzzle.

Materials

  • Diagram of solar eclipse
  • Puzzles with blank pieces
  • Marker

Teacher Directions

  1. Prior to the game, use a marker to write facts about solar eclipses on the blank pieces of several puzzles. If you do not have blank puzzle pieces, cut pieces of poster board into puzzle pieces. Additionally, write facts that are not about solar eclipses on some additional puzzle pieces that will not fit in the puzzles.
  2. Show the class a diagram of a solar eclipse. Discuss solar eclipses, including how they are created and what happens during them.
  3. Divide the class into teams.
  4. Have each team stand in a line at one end of the classroom. At the other end of the classroom, place a set of the puzzle pieces, including some of the extra pieces that don't contain facts about solar eclipse, in front of each team.
  5. When you say 'go,' have the first student in each line run down to their team's puzzle pieces, find a piece that is a fact about solar eclipses, and bring it back.
  6. The student will tag the next person in line to run down and get a piece.
  7. The first team to find all the pieces that are facts about solar eclipses and put their puzzle together wins.

Discussion Questions

  • How would you describe a solar eclipse to someone who is blind?
  • How do you think people in prior centuries, without our technology, explained what a solar eclipse was or why it happened?

Corona Art

Use art to help students predict what the corona of the next solar eclipse might look like.

Materials

  • Pictures of coronas for solar eclipses
  • Black construction paper
  • Chalk (white/yellow)
  • Cardboard
  • Scissors

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