Solar Eclipse Lesson Plan

Instructor: Joanne Abramson

Joanne has taught middle school and high school science for more than ten years and has a master's degree in education.

This lesson plan will help you introduce your secondary students to the solar eclipse. With it, students will view and discuss a short video lesson about eclipses before creating a model of this phenomenon.

Lesson Objectives

By the end of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • explain what a solar eclipse is
  • state the difference between a total solar eclipse and partial lunar eclipse
  • describe how the Sun, Moon, and Earth must be aligned in order for a solar eclipse to occur


1-1.5 hours

Curriculum Standards


Follow precisely a complex multi-step procedure when carrying out experiments, taking measurements, or performing technical tasks, attending to special cases or exceptions defined in the text.


Determine the meaning of symbols, key terms, and other domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context relevant to grades 9-10 texts and topics.


Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9-10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.


  • Images of solar eclipses
  • Satellite images of solar eclipses showing the shadows of moons on Earth, Saturn, and Jupiter
  • Images from the Mars rover, Curiosity, showing a solar eclipse on Mars
  • Image depicting both the orbital plane of the moon around the Earth and the orbital plane of the Earth around the Sun
  • Large balls (about 36 inches in diameter), enough for each group to have one
  • Medium balls (about 12 inches in diameter), enough for each group to have one
  • Small balls (about 8 inches in diameter), enough for each group to have one
  • Flashlights (one per group)
  • Dark-colored butcher paper or construction paper


  • Begin the lesson by showing students images of solar eclipses.
    • Do you know what's happening in these pictures?
    • Do you know how eclipses are created?
  • Now show satellite images of solar eclipses on Earth, Saturn, and Jupiter. Explain that in today's lesson they will be learning more about solar eclipses.
  • Start the video What is a Solar Eclipse? - Definition & Overview and pause the video at 0:51. Ask students the following question:
    • What is a solar eclipse?
  • Display the images from the Curiosity rover that show a solar eclipse on Mars. Ask the following questions:
    • How are these images similar to solar eclipses that we see on Earth?
    • How are they different?
    • Do you think a solar eclipse on Mars will ever look more like the ones we see on Earth? Why or why not?
  • Return the video, this time pausing at 1:39. Ask students the following discussion questions:
    • What is the umbra of the moon?
    • How long do solar eclipses last?
  • Show an image depicting the orbital plane of the Moon around the Earth and the orbital plane of the Earth around the Sun. Ask the following question:
    • What two events must take place in order for a solar eclipse to occur?
  • Continue the video, this time watching it to the end. Ask the following questions:
    • What is the difference between a total solar eclipse and a partial solar eclipse?
    • Why was the total solar eclipse of 1919 so important?
  • To check for understanding, project and complete the lesson quiz.

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