According to NASA, a total solar eclipse across the entire United States, the likes of which not seen in the last 99 years, will occur Monday, August 21st. The ability to view the entire eclipse will only be available to a small portion of the United States (a 70 mile span). The eclipse can be seen elsewhere but in smaller phases. NASA plans to record the event and encourages those using sun viewers and other means to do so safely. The entire ordeal will last about two hours and will completely block out the sun in the fourteen effected states.
Public libraries have a tremendous opportunity to supplement STEM programming with the event before and after. Possible classes/workshops include viewing eclipses safely, the history of NASA, how stars form, how to operate a telescope, and how to identify constellations and other celestial bodies. Inviting local astronomers and university professors to talk to the community is also a great way to engage a library’s community and network for possible future collaborations.
Kenton County Public Library (KY) is using the opportunity to engage its community by distributing free eclipse viewing glasses obtained through STAR_Net. According to STAR_Net, they have distributed over 2 million free pairs of glasses and more than4,000 education kits to 7,000 U.S. libraries. The Erlanger Branch of the Kenton County Library began offering programs at the end of July, and will continue through August 15th. The first of three classes was geared toward children and included space themed art, discussion, and book resources. The second and last classes are for general audiences and include history of eclipses, crafts, games, and distribution of free safety glasses.
What about libraries who are not able to participate in next week’s eclipse activities? There are still opportunities to use the eclipse and the publicity it’s been getting to benefit your library. You don’t need a large budget or access to free safety glasses. Resources for the eclipse and STEM activities are available on the STAR_Net website. In addition, your library can host post-eclipse discussions with local astronomers, and offer astronomy themed crafts and programming with normal STEM activities.