Complete Solar Eclipse (8/21) and English Class

On Monday, August 21st, North America will experience a solar eclipse. For the first time since 1918, the eclipse will be visible from the United States. Here in New Jersey, we will only experience a partial eclipse.  We should see 70-75% of the sun covered by the moon beginning around 1pm and peaking a little after 3pm. The path of totality will stretch across 14 states, many of which will be in school on August 21st. You can find out more about the eclipse and your view in this Vox article.

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The NASA-provided map above  shows the zone of totality. The moon’s shadow will enter the United States near Lincoln City, Oregon, around noon EST/9am PDT. Totality will begin in Lincoln City, Oregon, at 10:16 am PDT. The total eclipse will end in Charleston, South Carolina, at 2:48 pm EDT. Many people are planning to travel to cities in the zone of totality, but even if you can’t bring your students to the total eclipse you can bring the eclipse into your classroom.

I’ve put together an annotated list of books and short stories that can be used by English teachers to include the eclipse as part of the curriculum.  There’s a dearth of accessible books that deal with eclipses, but I’ve found a handful of tales that can be used.  I’d love to hear your suggestions, too!  There will also be many newspaper and magazine articles about the eclipse during the next few weeks; these can be great for article of the week or current events activities.

Regardless of how you plan to celebrate the eclipse, I encourage you to bring the event into your class. Read about the event and, if possible, bring your students outside to experience the event!  This is also the perfect opportunity to collaborate with other content area teachers!

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#100HoursUnplugged Challenge- Can You Do It?

This summer, OARS, one of the largest rafting companies in the world, is challenging adults and children to leave their technology and devices behind for 100 hours this summer.  No social media, no Candy Crush, no checking email- just you and the great outdoors for 100 hours.  OARS explains that you can break the 100 hours up for the entire summer or spend a long weekend camping to accomplish your goal.  It’s not about when you unplug but how.  Spend time outside hiking, camping, playing in the backyard, or anything else you can think of!

According to OARS, children and teens spend between six to nine hours a day online.  And guess what?  That doesn’t include screen time for school!  I know I am guilty of assigning technology-laden assignments for homework so I play a part in this tragedy, too.  And yes, I think it is a tragedy.  I’ve spoken to my students multiple times about how much time they spend outside on a weekly basis and for most of them it’s barely any time at all.  They are scheduled within an inch of their lives by school and home and there just isn’t time.  Yet we know that spending time outside is good for our mental and emotional health.

Adults are even worse!  We spend up to 11 hours a day using technology.  (Yup, sounds about right….) So it’s time to start setting a good example.  Summer is the perfect time to get outside and start thinking of ways to bring your students outside in the fall.  Get comfortable with the parks and school yards in your neighborhood.  Observe and play. Relax.  And have fun!

Take the challenge and sign up!  Then share pictures of your adventures.  

The Curious Creative- An E-Newsletter by Jess Keating

Science communication is one of my passions and as an English teacher at a STEM school it’s an important skill my students need to learn.  I’m always looking for ways to have my students practice communicating about complex science topics in a fun way (you can see a sample here). These projects can’t be done until I share mentor texts with my students, though.  We don’t always have the time or budget to add whole-class nonfiction books to our curriculum so articles and magazines are my go-to source for science communication mentor texts. I’m always adding links and PDFs to my bookmarks!

A few weeks ago, author Jess Keating posted an exciting new mentor text on Facebook.

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How awesome is this?  I immediately subscribed and started thinking about how my students could create their own e-zines to communicate science.  My biology colleague and I do an interdisciplinary magazine project at the beginning of each year and I can’t wait to share The Curious Creative with students as a mentor text.  What I love about this text is that it’s concise, engaging, and eye-catching.  So much of communication these days is done online so it’s vital that our students learn to communicate well in this medium. I also struggle to help my students write concisely so this newsletter looks like  a great way to model the power of concise writing.

Be sure to subscribe by emailing jesskeatingbooks@gmail.com and writing SUBSCRIBE in the subject line.  You won’t be disappointed!