I don’t know about you, but my social media feeds are filled with posts about the upcoming total solar eclipse on Monday, August 21.

“What are you doing with your kids on Monday?”
“Has anyone found glasses locally?”
“How can we safely watch the eclipse without glasses?”

There hasn’t been a total solar eclipse that crossed the US since 1979 {and it was only visible in the Northwest states} so this is a BIG deal!

What is a total solar eclipse?

A solar eclipse is when the moon crosses right in front of the sun, covering it completely for a very short time. While we won’t experience the total eclipse here in Florida, we’ll have about 80% coverage. I’m not sure what to expect here other than a darker sky than normal, but for those in the path of total coverage, the sky gets dark, stars come out, and day turns into night for a few moments! You can find a wealth of information on the NASA Eclipse website.

When is this happening?

Monday, August 21. In Polk County, the eclipse will begin at 1:18 p.m. and end at 4:14 p.m., with maximum coverage of the sun occurring at 2:50 p.m. So pick up time for many local schools is smack dab in the middle of the solar eclipse!

Why the hype??

Because it is one of nature’s most awe-inspiring sights!
More importantly, it can cause permanent vision damage, which is why parents are worried about kids being outdoors during the time of the eclipse. The concern is that children will be curious and look up at the sun without protective eye wear.

What should I do with my kids? What about school pick up?

The Polk County School District has provided information on what will be done at schools that afternoon:

To minimize the risk to students, Polk County Public Schools will move all outdoor activities, such as PICK UP, athletic practices, band rehearsals and after-school programs, indoors between the hours of 1:15 and 4:30 p.m. Dismissal times will not be affected.  In addition to these precautions, student absences on the day of the eclipse will be excused.
Read the full information page here.

Charter and private schools each set their own policy, but I would assume every school will have children indoors during this time.

If you decide to check your kids out early so you can watch it together OR keep them indoors during the hours of 1-4pm, you will not be alone as this seems to be a common choice!

How can we safely watch the eclipse?

You’ll need special “eclipse glasses” {seem to be sold out locally} OR a pinhole viewer/sun funnel. We picked our glasses up at a NASA event a few weeks ago when we were in NYC, and I can tell you they are PITCH BLACK. If you have a pair and aren’t sure if they are legit, put them on and see if you can see anything.

“You shouldn’t be able to see anything through a safe solar filter except the Sun itself or something comparably bright, such as the Sun reflected in a mirror, a sunglint off shiny metal, the hot filament of an unfrosted incandescent lightbulb, a bright halogen lightbulb, a bright-white LED flashlight (including the one on your smartphone). All such sources should appear quite dim through a solar viewer.”

The instructions we were given when we received our glasses were to look down at the ground, put them on and hold them securely in place, glance briefly at the sun, and then look down at the ground again before removing them.

Directions for making a pinhole viewer or sun funnel can be found on the NASA website or Time and Date website. You can also check out the Pinhole Projector making event on Saturday at Colt Creek State Park or the  Pinhole Projecter making event happening on Sunday with Upcycled Jane at Florida Dance Theater.

The eclipse will also be live streamed on NASA’s website and multiple TV stations.

When do solar eclipses happen? Aren’t they common?

There is some form of partial or total eclipse somewhere on earth every 1-2 years, but rarely is it over a populated area like the United States.

Visit the NASA Eclipse Website for a wealth of information!