10 ways to maximize your solar eclipse viewing experience with your Scouts

You might have heard there’s a total solar eclipse coming on Monday, Aug. 21.

In the contiguous United States, the eclipse begins at about 9 a.m. PDT on the Oregon coast. It will then dash across the middle of the country before ending around 4 p.m. EDT off the coast of South Carolina.

Scouts, Venturers, parents and Scout leaders who live along the 168-mile-wide path of totality are in for the biggest treat. But everyone in the lower 48 will see at least a partial eclipse, which is still really cool.

Speaking of really cool, the team at Boys’ Life will host the “Boys’ Life Eclipse Extravaganza” live on Facebook, beginning around 10 a.m. Central on Monday. Be sure to tune in.

With the eclipse now less than a week away, here are some last-minute suggestions for maximizing your viewing experience.

1. See what you’ll see.

This site, from the folks at Google and the University of California, Berkeley, lets you type in your ZIP code or city to see what the eclipse will look like wherever you’ll be on Aug. 21.

It provides exact times, so you can set your alarm accordingly.

2. Plan for the patch.

In June, I told you about the BSA 2017 Solar Eclipse patch, available to Scouts and Venturers who make the most of this awesome opportunity.

Learn more at the official BSA eclipse website.

3. Find an event near you.

If you’re in the path of totality, chances are there’s a Scouting event hosted by your council. That’s the plan at these BSA camps, plus others not listed:

If you aren’t near one of these camps, check this NASA page to find a viewing location near you. Options abound both in and out of the path of totality.

4. Be Prepared for traffic and poor cell service.

If you live or plan to drive to somewhere within the path of totality, expect heavy traffic and overloaded cell towers.

Plan ahead by bringing a standalone GPS device (instead of relying solely on your phone). Print out maps and reservation info for hotels or campsites.

Pack extra water and snacks in your car, too, in case you’re stuck on the road for a while.

5. Teach your Scouts and Venturers what they’ll see.

Use a flashlight and some sports balls to show your Scouts how an eclipse works. Have the tennis ball moon blocking out the flashlight sun, casting a shadow on the basketball earth.

You can also show them this Crash Course Astronomy video from PBS.

6. Stay cool in the shades.

By now I hope you have your eclipse-ready glasses. Look for ones that say they’re ISO 12312-2 compliant. Your local Scout camp, science museum, school or astronomy club might have extras for people to borrow.

Watch out, though, because some companies are selling eclipse viewers and glasses that aren’t safe.

The American Astronomical Society has put together this list of reputable vendors, which includes retail chains and online vendors.

7. Make your own eclipse viewer.

Looking for a hands-on activity that will also help Scouts view the eclipse in a safe way?

Look no further than this solar eclipse viewer from Boys’ Life magazine. Find instructions here, or watch the video below.

8. Prepare to be outside for hours.

Don’t let the eclipse distract you from your typical preparations for being outside in the summer heat.

That means you bring plenty of water, wear sunscreen and a hat, and find a shady spot with camp chairs to wait for the big moment in the sun.

Sunscreen? Yes, even in an eclipse you can get a sunburn.

9. Figure out a foul-weather plan.

Clouds can spoil even the best eclipse-watching plan. So even as you cross your fingers for clear skies, you should still plan for the worst.

If you’re watching at home, bookmark NASA’s Eclipse Live page, where viewers can see the eclipse from a number of unique vantage points, including NASA aircraft and high-altitude balloons.

If you’re watching with a group, bring a laptop and projector so you can share these live videos for all to see.

10. Start planning for 2024.

There will be another eclipse in the United States on April 8, 2024. That one will cut across Texas, through Ohio and into Maine.

In other words, even if you miss out on the 2017 eclipse because of bad weather or other factors, all is not completely lost.

1 Comment

  1. Hmmm. Reservations for Boxwell Scout Reservation in Tennessee (Middle Tennessee Council) closed July 14th. This would have been good information 6 months ago.

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