How I Brought the Real World into my Classroom with the Eclipse

Written by Shelley Kappeler, PK-5 STEM Coordinator at Westgate Elementary, part of the Pinellas County School District in Florida, and LEGO® Education Ambassador.

We often talk to our students about ”real-world” concepts. But, how often does that real-world concept actually go from your classroom to the real world, the next day? For my students, the April total solar eclipse was a rare, real science ”I know how that works!” moment that happened right outside their classroom door.


Connect with a real-life scientific moment

In March, I approached my Principal about doing a school-wide solar eclipse project. Even though our geographic area was not in the path of totality, many of our classes had been reading about the total solar eclipse and were planning to watch it together. The LEGO Education Eclipse Collection activities provided students an engaging introduction to the hands-on learning approach we were going to use and allowed them to learn from each other.

After showing a class one of the inspiration models, I asked, ”What did that teach you?” After a student answered, I said, ”Could you do that for someone else? Could you build a model that allowed one of your friends to learn about the solar eclipse?” And our Gallery Project took off from there.

Engage with Hands-on learning

Like many LEGO Education activities, the Solar Eclipse Exploration allowed for student inquiry and open-ended solutions. Rather than give directions to build a model of a specific object, I asked students how they would convey certain science concepts related to the solar eclipse. Some of the concepts can be difficult to understand for an 8 or 10 year-old, but students forgot about all that when I pulled out some LEGO® bricks, along with LEGO® Education SPIKE Prime and LEGO® Education SPIKE Essential sets. LEGO Education lowers the barrier to learning. They already have a familiarity with the product and they were able to immediately start being creative and coming up with design ideas. How could we show ”nocturnal” or ”rotation”?


Students discovered a new sense of agency for their own learning, knowing they were creating a model to demonstrate a science concept for other students. This led to greater collaboration and excitement. Students worked in pairs and many of our 5th graders chose to convey science vocabulary related to the solar eclipse that aligned to state standards, such as rotation, revolution, and phases of the moon. After the experience, students said they could explain the vocabulary ”in their sleep,” which told me how much more meaningful the hands-on learning with LEGO Education had been for them.


Discover future careers in science

LEGO Education really has the ability to open doors for our students. With every lesson and every project, students gain new skills and I see their confidence grow. This is especially true of my female students. At Westgate, students begin working with LEGO Education solutions as early as Kindergarten, and we are now seeing more girls take leadership roles as 4th and 5th graders. As a teacher, it’s rewarding to see how female students were more likely to be the leader of the group in this project. And girls who previously had no interest in engineering, math, or science, now ask more career-related questions during STEM, and they have more curiosity about science and math job paths.

Using hands-on learning to make real-life concepts come to life is a game changer for students. Not only does it allow them to truly understand concepts, but it opens their eyes to careers and jobs they may have never even dreamed of.

About Shelley

Shelley Kappeler is a PK-5 STEM Coordinator and Educational Media Specialist for the Westgate Elementary school in Pinellas County, FL. In her role, Shelley coordinates enrichment programs for students including digital learning opportunities. She also operates the school library and makerspace and encourages students to pursue hands-on learning to spark a passion for learning.

Find Shelley on social media:
X @libraryofquirky