Neurodiverse Solar Science learners await eclipse

Curriculum created through NASA’s Neurodiversity Network, based at Sonoma State
March 21, 2024
photo of the sun

NASA's Neurodiversity Network (N3) – created by Sonoma State’s Dr. Lynn Cominsky – is partnering with several schools in the path of totality to increase curiosity about the total solar eclipse on April 8, 2024.  For those in the totality – from Mexico through the United States and into Canada – the sun is blocked by the moon, allowing people to see the solar atmosphere, the sun’s corona. 

“The Solar Science curriculum we created features mysteries about the sun that should be intriguing to our neurodiverse audience and inspire them to learn more about the sun and the cosmos,” said Cominsky, Director of SSU’s EdEon STEM Learning.

Sonoma State received $5.5 million in funding from NASA to develop N3, for which Cominsky is the principal investigator. N3’s goal is to create pathways to NASA participation and STEM employment for learners on the autism spectrum and other neurodivergent learners. 

Partnering with four California schools (Oak Hill in San Anselmo, Anova Center for Education in Santa Rosa, Stanbridge Academy in San Mateo, and Orion Academy in Concord) that specialize in educating neurodiverse high school students, N3 has also redesigned astronomy and rocketry curriculum to work better for autistic learners. In 2023, the Solar Science curriculum was co-developed and tested by those schools so they, and new partner schools in Texas, Ohio and New York, could adopt it in time for the eclipse.

N3 has also worked with the Sonoma State NASA-funded project Eclipse Megamovie 2024 (EM2024) to create flyers explaining  what to expect for a first-time total solar eclipse viewer. EM2024 is led by EdEon Associate Director Dr. Laura Peticolas. The N3 Eclipse Guide features tools and methods for educators of neurodiverse learners when teaching about total solar eclipses.