STAO Perspectives on the Solar Eclipse of April 8, 2024

Image of a solar eclipse.

Prepared for STAO by Past President Dr. Ralph Chou

For several months, members of the Science Teachers’ Association of Ontario (STAO) have been planning to include lessons on the space and environmental science aspects of the solar eclipse of April 8, 2024, for students of all ages across the province of Ontario. The solar eclipse will be experienced by students everywhere in Ontario with many in the path of totality or just outside it. The timing of the eclipse has caused many Boards of Education to make April 8 a PA day because Ontario schools would be dismissing classes for the day as the eclipse occurs overhead.

Many science teachers have received solar eclipse glasses as part of the training on solar eclipse science offered this year by Discover the Universe, and notably through our recent STAO webinar given by Discover the Universe. These were obtained from a reliable source and have been certified as complying with the international standard ISO 12312-2: 2015 requirements. Some teachers may have instead acquired certified solar eclipse glasses through local postsecondary institutions or have purchased them directly from reliable distributors. Regardless of how teachers have acquired certified solar eclipse glasses, it is very easy to teach students of all ages how to use these protective devices so that they can enjoy a safe view of the solar eclipse, whether they are in the path of totality or the zone of partial eclipse.

Given the wide publicity of the solar eclipse, STAO believes that the interests of students, their families, and the general public will be best served if teachers are encouraged to teach their lessons about the solar eclipse and how to view it safely and to distribute their solar eclipse glasses to students even if their school is not in session on April 8th. Teachers can instead distribute their solar eclipse glasses to students on Friday, April 5 so that students and their families can enjoy safe views of the eclipsed Sun by sharing the glasses.

At schools that are not closed for the day on April 8th, STAO encourages school administrators to organize eclipse viewing events for students and their families so that they can learn about solar eclipse science and enjoy the views of the eclipse with their teachers. This is a unique opportunity to talk about how observing the eclipse and the environment around us during the eclipse are closely connected and demonstrates how many areas of scientific study are tied to this singular event.

It is important to remember, however, that students viewing the eclipse should be supervised closely by their parents or guardians. There is no substitute for good safety practices, and we stress the critical importance of supervised use of solar eclipse glasses, and proper instructions in such use.

B. Ralph Chou, BSc, MSc, OD, FAAO
Professor Emeritus
School of Optometry & Vision Science
University of Waterloo

For more information about the importance of witnessing this significant event, and how to teach your students to use the eclipse glasses safely, please check out these resources:

Discover the Universe Blog – Why Should Schools Engage With the April 8th Total Solar Eclipse

Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics Press Release – Eclipse 2024: No kids left inside