A Kansas City Kid’s Guide to the Solar Eclipse

Starting at 1:08 p.m. on August 21, parts of the Kansas City metro area will witness a unique astronomical event, the likes of which we won’t see again until 2205: a total solar eclipse. Parents, teachers and local businesses alike have been looking ahead to this event with excitement for months (and in some cases, years); as a mom of five and homeschool teacher of two, I am geeking out over all the ways to share this excitement with my kids. Here are some helpful tips and ideas for making the most of “The Great American Eclipse” with your kids – right here in Kansas City:

Know where you need to be.
total solar eclipse locator map St. Joseph MissouriThe darkest part of the moon’s shadow will move at more than 1,500 miles per hour along a path from Oregon to South Carolina. This “path of totality” will clip the northeastern edge of Kansas and cut across Missouri over both the KC and St. Louis metro areas; however, for those of us in the metro area, not everyone resides within the path of totality and may only be able to observe a partial phase (rather than a total darkening of the sky). This locator map reveals whether your location is within the path of totality, the precise time the total eclipse will occur at that location and how long the total eclipse will last. Most of the metro area will only observe a partial phase, so if a total darkening is what you’re after, consider a field trip to Independence or one of the suburbs north of the river.

Use eye protection …
… and we’re not talking about those cute shades you snagged for a great price at the Nordstrom anniversary sale. If any part of the sun is shining, eye protection is required for viewing a total eclipse (even if you’re only observing a partial phase). Appropriate options include special eclipse glasses, number 14 welder’s glass or a pinhole projector which you can DIY here – a fun activity with your kids leading up to the eclipse! In addition to your neighborhood grocery or home improvement store, eclipse glasses can be found locally at:

Get educated.
Build a Better WorldTeaching our children about this once-in-a-lifetime event is as important as watching it happen. The Astronomical Society of Kansas City is offering public presentations about the total eclipse on August 6 at Powell Observatory in Louisburg and August 19 at Warkoczewski Observatory at UMKC (small donation required). Several branches of the Mid-Continent Public Library are offering programming leading up to the total eclipse on the science behind eclipses and how best to safely view it; similar programming can also be found through the Kansas City, Kansas Public Library and the Johnson County Library. Offerings from the Kansas City Public Library include a class on photographing the eclipse (perfect for older kids and adults alike) and a children’s program, August 19th at 2 p.m. at the Plaza branch, called “Invasion of the Robots from Earth” which will focus not only on the eclipse, but also on careers in space exploration and how humans have managed to explore space using robots. 

If books are your family’s style, here are several titles to consider:

  • “The Big Eclipse” by Nancy Coffelt
  • “Eclipse Miracle” by Sand Sheff
  • “Eclipses (Amazing Sights of the Sky)” by Martha E. H. Rustad
  • “Eclipses (The Night Sky: and Other Amazing Sights in Space)” by Nick Hunter
  • “Go See the Eclipse (and Take a Kid With You)” by Chap Percival
  • “The Moon Book” by Gail Gibbons
  • “Total Eclipse or Bust!” by Patricia Totten Espenak
  • “When the Sun Goes Dark” by Andrew Fraknoi and Dennis Schatz

Attend a local viewing event.
Note: Some events listed below may be restricted to ages 21+ and/or may have sold out, so please view event websites for more detailed information. Also, not all events listed below are within the path of totality; consult this locator map for site-specific details regarding the eclipse.

Additional viewing event options outside the Kansas City metro area include:

St. Joseph, Missouri is the fifth-largest city along the line of totality and promises some of the best viewing of the total eclipse. Viewing locations in St. Joseph include:

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