Watching a Solar Eclipse with Toddlers

Solar eclipse. Photo courtesy of intographics on pixabay.

It’s nearly here. The Total Solar Eclipse happens tomorrow, Aug 21, 2017. Like many parents, I’ve been meaning to come up with a cool way for our toddlers to participate in the fun. But, I’ve been struggling with what to do and have procrastinated far too long.

Ideally, we’d go out in the backyard, put on our solar glasses, and watch the eclipse, talking about what’s happening and how cool it is. But, did I mention we have toddlers? I can get them to wear sunglasses sometimes, but I’m definitely not convinced I can get them to keep their solar glasses on during the actual moments of the eclipse. Or prevent one (or both) of them from looking at the sun during the event. And eye damage just isn’t worth it – total eclipse or not.

Captain Curious sporting sunglasses for a brief moment.
Captain Curious sporting sunglasses for a brief moment.

There’s a big eclipse festival happening a few hours from our home, which would be awesome. But I’m not in a position to take lots of time off work to drive there and back. Sitting in traffic with toddlers for several hours each way? No thank-you!

But it’s a TOTAL SOLAR ECLIPSE. And citizen science is what I do. Every. Day. I cannot pass up an opportunity to do citizen science with my kids during this event.

Thankfully, I was tasked with helping to put together a SciStarter newsletter about citizen science projects for the eclipse. And in doing so, I landed on a project that I think is going to be a great fit.

Inspector Inquiry wearing sunglasses indoors - because he's cool like that.
Inspector Inquiry wearing sunglasses indoors – because he’s cool like that.

Solar Eclipse 2017: Life Responds

Solar Eclipse 2017: Life Responds is a project put together by the team of folks at the California Academy of Sciences iNaturalist program. As it turns out, animals often react in unusual ways during a solar eclipse. But, many stories about animal behavior during eclipse events are anecdotal or documented in lab settings. iNaturalist is attempting to gather more data about animal behavior outside, around the country.

And, it just so happens, my kiddos, Captain Curious and Inspector Inquiry, are great little animal observers. I wrote about our efforts to teach them to instill good observation skills in them a while back and this is a great opportunity to practice those skills.

All we need to do is sign-up for the Life Responds project on iNaturalist (check!), choose a critter or two to watch before, during and after the eclipse, enter our observations, and done. There are a few more details than that, which you can read about on the Life Responds website, but those are the basics.

This we can do. We have a screened-in porch leading to our backyard where we can safely sit before, during and after the eclipse event without fear of the kids looking up at the sun. We, thankfully, have an abundance of fox squirrels in our backyard that we can observe easily from said porch. And, we have iNaturalist already loaded on my phone. We’re ready. Who knows what we’ll see? Whatever we observe, we’ll be contributing to a better understanding of animal behavior. How cool is that?

Observing a squirrel at the park Photo by: Sarah Newman
Observing a very brave squirrel at the park

More Solar Eclipse Citizen Science

Looking for other citizen science activities during the Solar Eclipse? SciStarter has put together a list of many of the projects you can participate in here.

How will you be participating in the solar eclipse? What citizen science activities do you hope to try?

Watching a Solar Eclipse with Toddlers

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