Grade Levels: 3-5, 6-8

In this lesson plan, adaptable for grades 3-8, students explore BrainPOP resources to learn about what an eclipse is and what causes them.  Then they’ll make their own pinhole cameras (activity adapted from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory) so that they can view a solar eclipse safely.  


Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Lesson Plan Next Generation Science Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Brainstorm what they know about eclipses.
  2. Develop a concept map that identifies what an eclipse is, what causes a lunar and solar eclipse, etc.
  3. Identify why it is dangerous to look at the Sun and ways to look at a solar eclipse safely.
  4. Make a pinhole camera.


  • Internet access for BrainPOP
  • Interactive whiteboard
  • 2 pieces of white card stock for each student
  • Aluminum foil
  • Tape
  • Pin or paper clip for each student


atmosphere, eclipse, filter, lunar, orbit, solar, umbra


Preview the movie Eclipse to plan for any adaptations.

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Display a KWL chart on the white board. Ask students what they know about eclipses. You may want to prompt them by asking them under what conditions they appear. Write their responses in the K column.
  2. Tell students that today they will learn all about eclipses -- what they are, the difference between solar and lunar eclipses, what causes them, and why it’s important not to look directly at an eclipse. Ask what they hope to learn about eclipses. Write their responses in the W column.
  3. Show the Eclipse on an interactive whiteboard or other large display for the whole class.
  4. Now working either independently, have students open the Make-a-Map feature within the movie.  As they watch, have them construct a concept map that identifies what eclipses are, what causes them to appear,  the difference between a solar and lunar eclipse, why they are dangerous to look at directly, etc.
  5. After everyone has watched the movie and completed the concept map, distribute the following: 2 pieces of white card stock, aluminum foil, tape, and pin or paperclip. Tell students they will now make their own pinhole cameras so they can safely watch the next eclipse.
  6. Have students follow these instructions:
      • Cut a square hole in the center of one piece of the card stock.
      • Tape a piece of aluminum foil over the hole.
      • Poke a small hole in the aluminum foil using the pin or paper clip.
  7. Try it out! Bring the class outside and model how to use the pinhole camera. Put the uncut piece of cardstock on the ground and hold the one with the foil above it with the foil facing up. Stand with the sun behind you and view the projected image on the card stock below. Show them how to enlarge the projected image by holding the camera farther away. To define the projection, put the bottom card stock in a shadowed area while holding the foil piece in the sunlight.

Extension Activities:

Invite students to poke more holes in the foil and see what happens. They’ll discover that the holes create different shapes, patterns, and other cool designs. Help them recognize that each hole turns into its own projection of the eclipse.