The Transit in Pictures

Smithsonian Institution Libraries

These exercises and lesson plans are designed to accompany and enrich the study and discussion of the June 2004 Transit of Venus.




Students write and produce public service commercials promoting the Transit of Venus and providing information about its safe viewing

Grade Level:



  • Identify the components and attributes of a public service announcement or commercial

    Audience analysis, attention gaining, character behavior, visual effects, sound effects, message, message length

  • Identify bias and misinformation in commercials
  • Identify safe viewing procedures for the Transit of Venus
  • Practice writing a public service announcement
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of the public service announcement.

  • Subject Area or Standard:

    Science, Language Arts, Media

    Materials Needed:

    • Paper
    • Pens, pencils
    • Drawing paper and art supplies
    • Assortment of clothing for costumes
    • Scenery or props as needed
    • Sources describing the Transit of Venus


    Chasing Venus
    Smithsonian Institution Libraries Online Exhibition, March 2004 to January 2005, http://www.sil.si.edu/exhibits/Chasing-Venus.htm
    Viewing the eclipse
    Solar eclipse safety code


    The safest way to view the Sun is indirectly using a projection method, e.g., pinhole projection.

    • You need two pieces of card
    • Make a small hole in one card
    • Hold this card above the other one
    • Move the cards in line with the sun and you will see the sun's image projected on the bottom card

    Rules for viewing the sun:

    NEVER view the sun with the naked eye or with any optical device such as binoculars or a telescope The lens in your eye will focus the sun's rays onto the back of your retina resulting in permanent damage or blindness.
    You may view the Sun directly only through a special filter made for safe solar viewing. If you are not certain a filter is approved and safe or you have any other doubts - DO NOT USE IT.

    How to use a solar filter:
    1. Read and follow manufacturer's instructions carefully.
    2. Make certain that filters have a "CE" mark approved for solar viewing.
    3. Check filter for damage. Do not use if they scratched or have holes.
    4. Hold the filter firmly over both eyes BEFORE looking up at the Sun.
    5. DO NOT remove until AFTER looking away from the Sun.
    6. DO NOT use telescopes, binoculars or cameras (even if using filters)
    7. DO NOT use sunglasses or filters made of photographic film, photographic filters, crossed polarisers, gelatin filters, compact disks or smoked glass.
    8. Supervise children at all times.


    1. Students research the Transit of Venus by visiting various sites or looking at printed information.
    2. Discuss various commercials that appeal to the students and ask them what they might learn from commercials.
    3. Discuss what parts of the commercials motivate them to watch it. What kinds of actors, music, dialog, etc. attract them? What are the messages? How do they react as an audience? Why? What would lead them to do what a commercial or announcement said?
    4. Discuss the upcoming Transit of Venus and the dangers of viewing the sun directly without protective filters.
    5. Students come up with idea for a public service announcement or commercial that will motivate others to practice the rules for the safe viewing of the Transit of Venus in June of 2004.
      a. Student writes a "treatment"-- a short document that summarizes the main idea.
      b. Student may submit alternative treatments.
    6. Class chooses or endorses one treatment or combination of treatments to produce and assigns various tasks to individuals.
      a. One will produce storyboards or blueprints of the various scenes
      b. One will start writing script
      c. One will create models and costuming for each "actor".
      d. One will design the background or setting
      e. Together decide on mood, lighting, look and feel for the announcement, e.g., scare techniques, or factual and informative, or . . . .
    7. Act out and record the final version of public service commercial,
    8. Present final version to another class and then quiz them about how they would safely view the Transit.


    Instead of a television commercial, students create ads for magazines or billboards that are also motivating and promote the same safety standards.

    Instead of acting out the commercial themselves, students can make puppets that follow the script and present the information.