Solar Eclipse: Lesson Plan

North Carolina gets a front seat to the first total solar eclipse visible in the contiguous United States since 1979. Everyone in the state will see something while a slice of western North Carolina will see a total eclipse.

UNC-TV Media


Reporter's Blog:

UNC-TV Science Animation:

Alignment to NC Essential Standards

  • 6.E.1.1 — Explain how the relative motion and relative position of the Sun, Earth and Moon affects the seasons, tides, phases of the moon and eclipses.

Learning Outcomes

Students will describe the alignment of the Sun, Earth and Moon that lead to solar eclipses, which occur regularly and are predictable.

Essential Questions

  1. How often do solar eclipses occur?
  2. What are the five phases of a total solar eclipse?

Essential Vocabulary

  • Solar eclipse
  • Totality
  • Umbra
  • Penumbra
  • First contact
  • Second contact
  • Totality
  • Third contact
  • Fourth contact
  • Corona


Students will view this UNC-TV Science interview with NASA ambassador Tony Rice to learn about the total solar eclipse occurring in August 2017. 

Stress to the class that solar eclipses occur when the Moon comes in between the Sun and the Earth. Reiterate the points about what parts of North Carolina will see a total eclipse, and what those in other areas of the state will see. 

After the viewing, tell the class that solar eclipses can be predicted, but in ancient and medieval times, a total solar eclipse would come as a surprise. Ask the class how they think citizens might have reacted to the “totality” phase of the eclipse, when complete darkness falls for a few minutes.

Other points for discussion:

  1. What is the danger of watching a solar eclipse directly, and what precautions do viewers need to take?
  2. What scientific theory was validated during a total solar eclipse?


Students will view the Morehead Planetarium & Science Center video “What is a Solar Eclipse?,” and answer the questions on the attached PDF as they watch.


Students will view the UNC-TV Science Animation “Solar Eclipse,” and answer the questions on the attached PDF.


The dangers of viewing the total eclipse cannot be stressed enough. Review the NASA handout Eye Safety During Solar Eclipses with the class. 

In groups or individually, students can construct their own solar eclipse viewer. 



Students will write a two-paragraph essay, or design a poster board with text and illustrations, on the five phases of the total solar eclipse. Content should include the names of each phase; the locations of the Sun, Earth and Moon during each phase, and portion of the Sun that is visible during each phase of the total solar eclipse.