“I see it! I see it!” several children exclaimed, peering skyward through special glasses at the sun from the parking lot outside the Seaside Public Library.
The kindergarten through fifth-grade children, as well as their parents and guardians, were gearing up for the impending Aug. 21 solar eclipse through a series of games and activities hosted by the library July 27.
Through June and July, as part of its 2017 summer reading program, the library offered preschool story times on Wednesdays; a handful of special performances and events for families; Teen Tuesday events; and six Thursday afternoon events for elementary-aged children. The most recent, and final, was themed “Solar Eclipse: Moon and Sun Experiments,” and about 60 people attended.
During the event, students decorated cookies with frosting and sprinkles to resemble suns, watched informational videos, and explored how far away the moon is from the sun to cast an umbral shadow, considering the significant size difference.
During a question-and-answer period led by youth services librarian Marian Rose, one young attendee accurately noted how a solar eclipse involves the moon’s shadow passing over the planet. Rose further informed listeners the North Coast does not fall in the path of totality — in which the sun will be completely obscured by the moon — but rather the path of a partial eclipse. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration estimates viewers in Seaside will experience the sun being covered about 96 to 98 percent, according to an online map.
“We will see the moon pass over the sun,” Rose told the students. “It’ll be pretty cool.”
Observers within the path of totality, she said, will be able to see the sun’s corona, the outermost part of the sun’s atmosphere that normally is hidden by the bright light of the sun’s surface. In all phases of the eclipse besides totality, however, viewers need to wear special eclipse glasses when looking directly at the sun.
“Only when the moon has completely blocked the sun is it safe to look,” Rose said.
The last time a total solar eclipse passed across the continental U.S. from coast to coast was June 1918. After the 2017 solar eclipse, the next total eclipse visible over the continental U.S. will be April 8, 2024, according to NASA.
As the library’s event drew to conclusion, each attendee was given a pair of eclipse glasses and led outdoors to experiment looking through them at the sun, much to the delight of the young observers.
This year’s Summer Reading program, based on the theme “Build a Better World,” wraps up Aug. 31. More than 300 children and teenagers in Clatsop County signed up to participate. Through donations made by local businesses and organizations, participants will receive rewards for meeting certain milestones throughout the summer program.
“We have a really amazing community that recognizes the importance of summer reading,” Rose said. The other events hosted in conjunction with the program — including the eclipse activity, a scavenger hunt in mid-July, a puppet show in June and more — further engage students, along with their whole families. Showing the connections that can be made through reading “helps pull them into literacy,” Rose said, adding the library is the ideal spot for providing these various opportunities.
“This is a place we can get things to families that are helpful to them,” she said. “Keeping kids engaged with literacy in any form is important.”