While Monday's solar eclipse has many people jazzed, schools and daycares across North America are facing a dilemma regarding children's safety. Specifically, how can they prevent kids from looking directly at the eclipse so they won't damage their eyesight?
For many, the solution is to keep kids indoors, as the Great American Eclipse will be visible across much of North America from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Aug. 21.
"Our children are fairly young and we really can't stop them from looking up," April Kalyniuk, daycare director at Winnipeg's Lord Roberts Children Programs, told CBC News. That's why the child care centre will be keeping its preschooler and elementary-aged children inside on Monday afternoon.
Plus, "to try and get 60 pairs of safety glasses and try and make sure they all keep them on, we just aren't going to do that," Kalyniuk added. "We would never want to put ourselves at risk that one of the school-age children takes the glasses off. I don't know how severe the risk is for eye damage but any risk is not worth it."
Looking directly at the solar eclipse can actually damage your eyes in seconds, despite the fact that the moon will block out some or all of the sun's light (depending where you are) during the event.
Missouri optometrist James Vann told Mashable, "If you look at the sun without eclipse glasses during a partial eclipse, or on a regular day, you are going to fry the back of your eye."
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He also added that children are "particularly at risk" from damaging their eyesight as they "have virtually no natural protection" compared to adults.
Thus, a number of daycares in Canada and the U.S. are choosing to keep kids inside.
However, some schools in the U.S. — where classes have already started — have decided to close altogether in order to protect students. Specifically, schools in Illinois' Edwardsville District 7 have deemed Monday a non-attendance day since the total eclipse is set to begin when classes are let out. The district is also only 160 km away from Carbondale, IL., where the eclipse will last the longest.
School district superintendent Lynda C. Andre explained in a statement: "Similar to other environmental hazards such as snow, ice, and dangerously low temperatures that cause the District to use emergency days, the solar eclipse presents a hazard to students if they cannot be kept indoors during the entire time of exposure of almost three hours."
Some child care centres will also be fully closed and, interestingly, some doggy daycares as well.
Unfortunately, the closure of daycares and schools pose a problem for many working parents who must now find alternative care for their kids.
And some don't fully understand the severity of what looking at an eclipse can do to their children's eyesight, which is causing even more upset. However, a story of how one man became blind at the centre of his right eye after looking at the 1962 partial eclipse in Oregon should be enough to set parents straight.
So is there any way to enjoy the solar eclipse safely? After all, this is the first time a total eclipse will sweep over North America since 1918.
Homemade filters or ordinary sunglasses, even very dark ones, are not safe for looking at the sun.
The answer is yes. According to NASA Planetary Science Director Jim Green, you just need the right protective eyewear.
"The only safe way to look directly at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun is through special-purpose solar filters, such as eclipse glasses or hand-held solar viewers," he told Today.com. "Homemade filters or ordinary sunglasses, even very dark ones, are not safe for looking at the sun."
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