Anticipating the 2017 Solar Eclipse: Activities & Lessons for Middle School

On August 21, 2017, Oregon will be the first to see the total eclipse of the Sun. This much anticipated solar eclipse will be visible across much of the United States. I first learned of this rare occurrence a year ago and quickly made plans to be sure we would be in the path.

Solar Eclipse 2017We purchased tickets to attend OMSI’s Eclipse Party at the Salem Fairgrounds and attempted to make hotel reservations in the area to no avail. We have thereby fallen back on a backup plan – staying with family in Eugene and driving up. I fear, however, that the road will be so congested we won’t reach our destination.

Anticipating the 2017 solar eclipse, I am delighted to share with you a number of lessons and activities with which you can engage your middle school students.

About the Solar Eclipse

A total solar eclipse is when the moon moves right in front of the sun, covering it completely for a very short time. It darkens the whole sky, lets you look right at the sun, and shows you the beautiful corona that surrounds the sun. Stars come out, the horizon glows with a 360-degree sunset, the temperature drops, and day turns into night.

Only look at the sun when it is 100% covered. You must use special solar viewing glasses whenever the sun isn’t completely eclipsed or it may cause irreparable eye damage.

The umbra (fully shaded inner region of a shadow) will hit the shores of Oregon at 10:15:53 am PDT near the small town of Otter Rock. From the time the shadow first touches land, it will take only two minutes for the shadow to race eastward. As the eclipse passes over the state, cities will experience various lengths of totality based on their varying distances from the centerline. At the Oregon State Fairgrounds, we will be treated to one minute and 53 seconds of shadow at just after 10:17am.

The eclipse will continue across the United States where Illinois will experience the longest eclipse duration at two minutes and 41 seconds. South Carolina will be the last state to witness the eclipse and the final shadow will be over the Atlantic Ocean near the west coast of Africa. See a map of the full eclipse path.

Solar Eclipse

Three Types of Eclipses

Solar eclipses occur during the new moon phase when the Moon moves between the Earth and the Sun and the three celestial bodies form a straight line, Earth-Moon-Sun. There are three kinds of solar eclipses, Annular, Partial, and Total. On even more rare occasions, a hybrid eclipse occurs when there is a combination of two.

Annular Eclipse

An annular eclipse occurs when the Moon covers the Sun’s center, yet the moon’s shadow doesn’t quite reach the Earth. The Sun’s visible outer edges thus form a “ring of fire” or annulus around the Moon. The ring of fire marks the maximum stage of an annular solar eclipse.

We have been fortunate to observe an eclipse in the past. In 2012, we enjoyed an annular eclipse near Red Bluff, California.

Partial Eclipse

A partial eclipse, which are visible to a greater number of people due to its wider path, occurs when the Moon comes between the Sun and the Earth, but they don’t align in a perfectly straight line and thus the Moon only partially covers the Sun’s disc. A Partial Eclipse can be seen on either side of the path of totality where the moon doesn’t completely cover the sun.

Total Eclipse

A total solar eclipse occurs when the Moon comes between the Sun and Earth and completely covers the face of the sun, letting the sun’s magnificent corona burst into view, and casts the darkest part of the shadow (the Umbra) on Earth. In this shadow, the Earth is almost as dark as night.

There won’t be another total solar eclipse over the United States until 2024. After that, you must wait until 2045.

Hybrid Eclipse

A hybrid solar eclipse occurs when the eclipse changes from an annular eclipse to a total eclipse along the path of the moon as it rotates about the Earth.

Solar Eclipse 2017Bring it Home – Solar Eclipse Resources

◉ NASA’s Eclipse 2017 guide and information by NOAA Portland 2017 Solar Eclipse

Solar Eclipse for Beginners: General information on the science of a solar eclipse

◉ NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio Eclipse Gallery: Scientifically accurate visualizations of solar eclipses including position of the Earth, Moon, and Sun, and path of the Moon’s shadow from different perspectives.

Shadow and Substance: A simulation for Oregon showing where totality and partial phases can be viewed.

NASA Eclipse Simulation: Students discover relative relationships between the Sun, Earth, and Moon, and how the Moon can eclipse the Sun.

NASA Wavelength: A full spectrum of NASA resources for Earth and space science education.

Eclipse in a Different Light: A Sun-Earth Day page for educators presented by NASA.

◉ If you are a Scout, you won’t want to miss the opportunity to earn the BSA 2017 Solar Eclipse patch.

  • Cub Scouts: Discuss what a solar eclipse is with your leaders.
  • Boy Scouts and Varsity Scouts: Draw a diagram of the positions of the moon, earth, and sun to show how the solar eclipse occurs.
  • Venturers: Research Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington’s 1919 experiment and discuss how it confirmed Einstein’s theory of general relativity.

10 Websites and Genealogy Resources for Kids

This past autumn, we enjoyed a family holiday on the East Coast of the United States and were thereby afforded with numerous educational experiences exploring our nation’s history. One of our most anticipated visits was to Ellis Island and the Museum of Immigration.
genealogy for kids

While here, we enjoyed a guided interpretive walk with a park ranger and thereafter enjoyed the many exhibits on our own. Amongst the highlights of our visit was seeing Norwegian bunad and langeleik, a stringed folklore musical instrument also known as a droned zither. As both my husband and I have Norwegian ancestors, seeing these personal artifacts brought the experience alive for us.

Genealogy Resources for Kids

Genealogy has always been fascinating to me. I grew up listening to stories my dad would share of his childhood and the stories that had been passed on to him by his Uncle Sam who had emigrated from Norway in the early 1900s. We’ve explored many of the branches of our family tree over the years. Today, I share some of our favorite genealogy resources for kids.

World’s Largest Online Resource for Family History

This is a subscription based, very user friendly site that is great even for a novice. This is the site I have used the most in my research. It includes records, links to other users, family trees, resources, pictures, and cemeteries.

Family Search

Family Search is a nonprofit family history organization maintained by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Since the Latter-day Saints are dedicated to preserving the records of their ancestors, they provide this service free.

Resources for Genealogists

Free database for genealogists that includes immigration, naturalization, military, passport, land, and bankruptcy records.

Researching Records and Archives

A low priced paid subscription web service that provides the user with an abundance of archived records of their ancestors.

Ellis Island History Center

Free immigration information for any ancestors that were processed through the Ellis Island and the Port of New York between 1892 and 1924, during their years of operation. Even if the relatives did not go through the port, it is an excellent source with links to other helpful sites.

genealogyforkidsGenealogy For Kids Forms

This site is geared for children with adult help. It has several links to forms kids can use, questions that they would find helpful while interviewing relatives and even a ‘cousin calculator’ that will help figure out how family members are related.

Genweb Project for Kids

This site is a good place for younger kids to start. It has links to several sites that would be helpful, however several of the links aren’t working. As with all internet usage, parental monitoring is needed.

Washington State Genealogy Resources for Kids

Excellent resource for students as well as adults with a wealth of information on researching the family tree.

Climbing Your Family Tree

This is an excellent source of worksheets for children to use when charting their family tree. It has PDF files to be used when interviewing family members.

Companion Website to be Used with the PBS Program Ancestors

An online companion to the series of 13 episodes presented by PBS on researching your ancestry. Each episode takes the viewer on a journey closer to finding their family’s story.

What Are You Doing for Others? Inspiring Youth to Make a Difference

There has been a tremendous amount of discourse regarding the current political climate in our nation. I have abstained from getting involved in these discussions as I do not wish to offend or make anyone uncomfortable.

The other day, however, my sister-in-law directly asked me for my opinion. In response to her question, I admit I was vague and I didn’t go into any detail about my political opinion. I did state though that it is my hope that through the events of the past year, perhaps our youth will be more engaged in politics and causes for which they feel impassioned.

“I have never been interested in politics myself,” I stated. “Yet, what I observe is that people are beginning to realize their voice – their vote – makes a difference. They are finding the courage to speak up and to speak out rather than stand by as ideal observers.”

What Are You Doing for Others? Inspiring Youth to Make a Difference @EvaVarga.netWhen we were traveling through the East Coast this past fall, we visited numerous national monuments and historical landmarks. Famous quotations were often inscribed in the granite and I would read these aloud as we walked. My daughter photographed many and copied her favorites into her journal including,

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?'”
~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

I had carefully coordinated our history studies prior to our departure to align with this trip. Much of our family discussions thereby revolved around historical events and the impact of our nation’s past leaders.

Study Rhetoric and Fallacies of Logic

In the evening, we would watch some of the presidential debates. We also watched snippets of previously recorded presidential debates as well as speeches delivered by Martin Luther King, Jr. We made note of their speaking style and the way in which they interacted with the other debaters and moderators.

When the kids were younger, we enjoying reading together The Fallacy Detective. It is fascinating to witness them continue to recognize these fallacies in others. It is especially humorous when the catch their own father special pleading.

Now that they are a little older, I look forward to incorporating more lessons on debate and rhetoric, a skill I feel is significantly lacking in most school curricula. As such, I have ordered a copy of The Discovery of Deduction which uses methods such as Socratic dialogue, discussion, and other subjects areas to teach dialectic students the art of rhetoric.

Legacy Dr MLKTake Action & Get Involved

A few years ago, I wrote a post for Multicultural Kid Blogs entitled, He Had a Dream: The Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Throughout my post, I explore ideas and opportunities for today’s youth to get involved and make a positive difference in the lives of others.

Consider also the example of Dr. Jane Goodall who stated Every individual matters, every individual has a role to play, every individual can make a difference

 

Science on the Road: Visiting the Statue of Liberty & Chemical Reactions

In September, we spent a few days in New York City on the island of Manhattan, the city’s historical birthplace and the economic and center. The borough contains several smaller islands including Liberty Island, Ellis Island (shared with New Jersey), Governors Island, and a few others. We were really looking forward to exploring the area and learning more about the history of the area, specifically the Statue of Liberty.

Science of the Statue of Liberty @EvaVarga.netWe arrived in Manhattan via Amtrak train from Boston in the early afternoon. We thereby opted to take in the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island the following day when we could arrive early and board the first cruise boat. This turned out to be a wise decision as the queue upon our return to the main island was very long.

We grabbed a quick bite at the deli just outside the Courtyard Marriott on 40th where we are staying then hopped the green line express to Bowling Green. Here, we walked the short distance to the boarding area.

We immediately made our way to the National Park Visitor Center after we disembarked. Here we stamped our Park Passport Books and inquired about guided tours. We were in luck in that the first tour would begin in just 20 minutes. We took a few candid photos (Geneva pulled out her sketch book) as we waited.

As we planned to spend all our time in this area, we opted to purchase the New York CityPASS as the majority of the attractions were in this general area. In addition to Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island cruise, the pass provided us with tickets to each of the following attractions:

  • Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island
  • The Empire State Building
  • American Museum of Natural History
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • Guggenheim Museum 
  • 9/11 Memorial & Museum   

 

Science & Art of Liberty Island and the Statue of Liberty @EvaVarga.netVisiting the Statue of Liberty & Liberty Island

Liberty Island Tour

The group that gathered for the guided tour of Liberty Island was small and thereby very intimate. I am surprised more people don’t take advantage of this opportunity – they are so very informative and best of all, FREE!

As we listened to the park ranger, we learned the idea of gifting the United States with a monument was first proposed in 1865 by Frenchman Edouard de Laboulaye. Sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi was commissioned to design a sculpture ten years later, with a goal of completing the work in 1876 to commemorate the centennial of the American Declaration of Independence.

As a joint venture between the two nations, it was agreed that the American people were to build the pedestal (carved in granite, the pedestal was designed by architect Richard Morris Hunt in 1884), and the French people were responsible for the Statue and its assembly here in the United States.

In France, public fees, various forms of entertainment, and a lottery were among the methods used to raise funds for the project. In the United States, theatrical events, art exhibitions, auctions and prizefights assisted in financing the construction.

Poet Emma Lazarus wrote her famous sonnet “The New Colossus” in 1883 for the art and literary auction to raise funds for the Statue’s pedestal.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
 – Emma Lazarus

Science & History of the Statue of Liberty @EvaVarga.netCentennial Gift 10 Years Late

Financing for the pedestal was completed in August 1885, and pedestal construction was finished in April 1886. The Statue was completed in France in July 1884 and arrived in New York Harbor in June 1885 onboard the French frigate “Isere.”

In transit, the Statue was reduced to 350 individual pieces and packed in 214 crates. The Statue was reassembled on her new pedestal in four months’ time. On October 28, 1886, President Grover Cleveland oversaw the dedication of the Statue of Liberty in front of thousands of spectators.

Homage to the Statue of Liberty Supporters

On Liberty Island, there are several small sculptures commemorating several of the key supporters of the Statue of Liberty gift. I really enjoyed hearing the personal triumphs that made it all possible.

  • Edouard de Laboulaye ~ The “Father of the Statue of Liberty.” He provided the idea that would become the Statue.
  • Frederic Auguste Bartholdi ~ The French artist and sculptor who designed the Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World.
  • Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel ~ The architect and engineer who designed the Statue’s internal support.
  • Emma Lazarus ~ The poetess who wrote “The New Colossus” to help raise money for the pedestal’s construction.
  • Joseph Pulitzer ~ The newspaper publisher who helped raise the money needed to complete the pedestal’s construction.

One of the things I overheard many of the young visitors ask as we walked about the island was, “Why is it green?” I knew that when I returned home, this was a concept I wanted to revisit with my children.

Bring it Home ~ Oxidation Reduction Reactions

Why is the Statue of Liberty Blue-Green?

Begin by showing students photographs of the Statue of Liberty.  Ask students to describe the color. Students usually give the right answer: that it is blue or aquamarine (blue-green). Now ask them why it is this color. Students generally have no clue.

Explain that the color is due to the oxidation of copper. Next, show them a piece of rusted metal and point out that the red color of rust is caused by the oxidation of iron.

Science of Oxidation and the Statue of Liberty @EvaVarga.netOxidation Explained with Chemical Equations

Chemical reactions can be divided into two classes: redox (reduction-oxidation) reactions and non-redox reactions based on whether electron transfer process is involved or not. A redox reaction consists of two half reactions: a reductive half in which a reactant accepts electrons and an oxidative half in which a reactant donates electrons.

2Cu + O2 → Cu2O

The nature of a redox reaction is that one reactant donates its electrons to the other reagent. For example, in the oxidation of copper by oxygen, copper atoms donate electrons to an oxygen molecule so copper is oxidized while oxygen is reduced.

The Statue of Liberty gets its blue-green color from patina formed on its copper surface mainly through oxidation along with several other chemical reactions. The main constituent of patina contains a mixture of 3 compounds: Cu4SO4(OH)6 in green; Cu2CO3(OH)2 in green; and Cu3(CO3)2(OH)2 in blue. The following reactions are involved.

2Cu2O + O2 → 4CuO

Cu + S → 4CuS 

The oxidation starts with the formation of copper oxide (Cu2O), which is red or pink in color (equation 1), when copper atoms initially react with oxygen molecules in the air. Copper oxide is further oxidized to copper oxide (CuO), which is black in color (equation 2). In the 19th and early 20th century, coal was the major fuel source for American industry and it usually contains sulfur. Thus, the black copper sulfide (CuS) also forms (equation 3).

2CuO + CO2 + H2O → Cu2CO3(OH)2

3CuO + 2CO2 + H2O → Cu3(CO3)2(OH)2

4CuO + SO3 +3H2O → Cu4SO4(OH)6

Over the years, CuO and CuS slowly reacts with carbon dioxide (CO2) and hydroxide ions (OH-) in water from the air to eventually form Cu2CO3(OH)2 (equation 4) , Cu3(CO3)2(OH)2 (equation 5) and Cu4SO4(OH)6 (equation 6), which constitute the patina. The extent of humidity and the level of sulfur-related air pollution have a significant impact on how fast the patina develops, as well as the relative ratio of the three components.

Take it Further

Can you think of another oxidation reduction reaction? Write out the chemical equations to further describe this process.

 

Our US Constitution: A Scavenger Hunt Activity for Teens

While we were back east, we spent a day in Philadelphia touring the many historical sites. We had arrived just days after Constitution Day – September 17th. We were informed that living history interpreters stand on the step of Independence Hall and read aloud the Constitution just as they had done in 1787. We were bummed to have missed this but a las, travel plans are not always perfect.

us-constitutionThe Constitution of the United States is one of the most important documents ever written. Congress authorized delegates to gather in Philadelphia during the summer of 1787 to address grievances that had emerged since declaring independence from England and recommend changes to the existing charter of government for the 13 states, the Articles of Confederation.

All American HistoryJohn Adams described the Constitutional Convention as “the greatest single effort of national deliberation that the world has ever seen”. It is to this day, a seminal event in the history of human liberty.

To learn more about our nation’s history, I strongly recommend All American History by Celeste Rakes. It is available from Bright Ideas Press in two volumes and includes a student reader, student activity book, and teacher guide. We’ve been working through each chapter as we have prepared for our travels. My kids beg me to read another chapter every few days.

Primary Sources: James Madison

The best way to see into the past and learn about any historical event is with primary sources. These include diaries, letters, newspaper articles, documents, speeches, personal papers, photographs, paintings, and other items created near the time begin studied. They are made by people who have direct, firsthand knowledge of the event.Our United States Constitution: A Scavenger Hunt Activity for Teens @EvaVarga.net

Because many of James Madison’s ideas made their way into the Constitution, he is often referred to as the “Father of the Constitution.” Indeed, he was a driving force of the convention throughout the summer of 1787, and his notes of the deliberations have provided valuable insights into the proceedings.

None of the Constitutional Convention delegates talked to newspaper reporters or other outsiders. Some delegates took notes, but not every day. Even secretary William Jackson’s records were incomplete.

James Madison gave us our only complete primary source. Every day, he sat at the front of the East Room and recorded the day’s events. After the Convention convened, he wrote:

I noted in terms legible and in abbreviations and marks intelligible to myself what was read or spoken by the members; and … I was enabled to write out my daily notes during the session or within a few finishing days after its close … I was not absent a single day, nor more than a … fraction of an hour in any day, so that I could not have lost a single speech, unless a very short one.

US Constitution: Take it Further

The Bill of Rights document states the first ten amendments to the US Constitution. Read through and discuss each amendment with your students. These amendments guarantee the basic freedoms that Americans enjoy today.

Older students should be encouraged to read the US Constitution in an Old World Style design as pictured here. Reading the ornate handscript is not easy though – even for one familiar with cursive lettering. Younger students can use a printed text.

I’ve put together a challenging and fun scavenger hunt with which to encourage your students to read the Constitution. You can download it for free .. I simply request you leave a comment answering, “What historical figure from this era do you most admire?”

Some of America’s best minds created the United States Constitution. Among them were James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Gouverneur Morris, Roger Sherman, James Wilson, and George Washington. Encourage your students to select one of these men and research his contributions to our country and give a presentation.

42 delegates signed the Constitution on the 17th of September 1787. Three refused. Learn more about who these men were and why they abstained.Our United States Constitution: A Scavenger Hunt Activity for Teens @EvaVarga.net

Choose one of the amendments. Write a short speech giving your opinion of the amendment. Tell why you think it is or is not an important right for citizens to have and what life might be like without it.

Visit the Explore the Constitution website where Constitutional experts interact with each other to explore the Constitution’s history and what it means today.

Constitution Day

To commemorate the September 17, 1787 signing of the Constitution of the United States, Congress has designated September 17th of each year as Constitution Day. In 2004, Public Law 108-447, Section 111 was passed requiring the following:

Each educational institution that receives Federal funds for a fiscal year shall hold an educational program on the United States Constitution on September 17 of such year for the students served by the education institution.

Sadly, I don’t recall learning about the Constitution on an annual basis when I was in school. We covered it in US History – but not more than a few times I am sure. How about you?

 

Finding Harry Potter at the MET with Watson Adventures

We rejoiced when Harry Potter and the Cursed Child arrived at our doorstep last month. We had been following the opening of the two-part play in England on social media and anxiously awaited the ne book to be released here in the states on July 31st, Harry Potter’s Birthday.

Anytime we come to the final chapter of a beloved book, we are a little remorseful to say goodbye to our favorite characters. We wanted to continue living in the magical world so beautifully imagined by JK Rowling.

met-watson-adventures
I was provided tickets in exchange for an honest review; please see my disclosure policy for details.

I first learned of Watson Adventures while in San Francisco years ago for Chinese New Year. We had observed several small groups of people racing through Chinatown on an unique scavenger hunt, seeking answers to thoughtful trivia questions. Watching their enthusiasm and hearing their high praise, I tucked the little bit of information away. I knew this was something I wanted to experience.

While planning our itinerary for our East coast holiday, I took a peak at the Watson Adventures website I had earlier pinned to a Pinterest board. Much to my delight, a public scavenger hunt was available during our stay in New York City. There were many hunts to choose from, the difficultly was choosing.

A few of the many Watson Adventures Public Scavenger Hunts in New York:

watson-adventures-metHarry Potter & The Wizard School Scavenger Hunt

When I glimpsed the title, The Wizard School Scavenger Hunt, I knew immediately this was the experience for us. This scavenger hunt would provide us the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of young wizards on a field trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in search of works that echo characters, places, and enchanted objects in the famed Harry Potter books and movies. What better way to celebrate, share in the love of the book, and discover the Met?!

The Wizard School Scavenger Hunt is designed for kids and adults to do together, but all-adult teams are allowed to compete separately. Kids must be accompanied by adults. For ages 10 and up.

We joined the The Wizard School Scavenger Hunt on September 17th at the MET in New York City. There were several others teams – both family and adult teams – competing. Two family teams were taking part as a birthday celebration for one of the young participants. We were encouraged to come up with creative team names and the most creative team was awarded bonus points.

I was very impressed with how well Michael and his assistant Shannon organized the teams and explained everything. There were only a few rules – essentially: No running. Teams must stay together. Don’t touch the art. We were given 90 minutes to complete the 24 question quest and we were off!

Fortunately, each team was assigned a different question with which to start. When we did meet other teams along the course, tensions rose. “Oh no! They are catching up with us. We have to hurry!”

Their scavenger hunts use witty, tricky questions in fast-paced games that bring out the best in a fascinating place—and the best in you and your teammates. The hunts are like walking tours spiked with caffeine.

Racing against other family teams, we hunted through the MET for Hagrid-like giants, centaurs, and unicorns that would feel at home in the Forbidden Forest. References to the books provided a surprising bridge to many strange and wonderful works of art. The Cursed Child provided us with new hints and tidbits. Not to worry, there were no spoilers!

The questions weren’t easy, however. One point was awarded for each correct answer (no points off for wrong answers). The team with the highest score wins! There was strong competition and amongst the five family teams competing, the scores ranged from 18-22. We didn’t win the coveted Watson Adventure medal (shown here with the winning family team) but we had a fabulous time. We all agreed we would love to take part in another if we ever get the chance. It was certainly a highlight of our trip.

watson-adventures-winnersTell Me More About Watson Adventures

Bret Watson started creating scavenger hunts in the early ’90s as a way to share his unique take on the lighter side of museums with his friends. Word began to spread and it wasn’t long before Watson Adventures sprung to life.The scavenger hunts are open to the general public on weekends and are available in seven cities:

  • Boston
  • Chicago
  • Los Angeles
  • New York City
  • Philadelphia
  • San Francisco
  • Washington DC

Private hunts are also available for large groups just about anywhere. The scavenger hunts are played on teams of up to six people. Advance purchase is required for all hunts. To purchase tickets online, select a city or a hunt and go to the hunt calendar.