Children demonstrate how to watch a solar eclipse in 1963
Caption from LIFE. Fifth-graders at the Emerson School in Maywood, Ill. line up with backs to the sun and their eclipse-watching boxes over their heads.Francis Miller—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
Children demonstrate how to watch a solar eclipse in 1963
Children demonstrate how to watch a solar eclipse in 1963
Children demonstrate how to watch a solar eclipse in 1963
Children demonstrate how to watch a solar eclipse in 1963
Children demonstrate how to watch a solar eclipse in 1963
Children demonstrate how to watch a solar eclipse in 1963
Children demonstrate how to watch a solar eclipse in 1963
Children demonstrate how to watch a solar eclipse in 1963
Children demonstrate how to watch a solar eclipse in 1963
Children demonstrate how to watch a solar eclipse in 1963
Children demonstrate how to watch a solar eclipse in 1963
Children demonstrate how to watch a solar eclipse in 1963
Children demonstrate how to watch a solar eclipse in 1963
Caption from LIFE. Fifth-graders at the Emerson School in Maywood, Ill. line up with backs to the sun and their eclipse-
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Francis Miller—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
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How to Watch the Solar Eclipse Like a 1960s School Kid

Updated: Aug 19, 2017 9:29 AM ET | Originally published: Mar 19, 2015

If you are one of the lucky Americans in position to see Monday's total solar eclipse —which will touch 14 states as it crosses the country from coast to coast — you’d do well to take a tip from 1963’s fifth grade class of the Emerson School in Maywood, Illinois. Wielding cardboard boxes and knives that today would surely get a kid suspended, the kids demonstrated for LIFE’s readers how to safely look at an eclipse.

During the solar eclipse of 1960, hundreds of people had suffered permanent eye damage from looking directly at the sun. With help from the Illinois Society for the Prevention of Blindness, Emerson students avoided the same fate by building Sunscopes, pinhole camera-like contraptions that indirectly project an image of the sun. The magazine offered instructions for those desiring to replicate the project at home:

To build your own, get a carton and cut a hole in one side, big enough to poke your head through. Paste white paper on the inside surface that you will be facing. Then punch a pinhole into the opposite side, high enough so that the little shaft of light will miss your head. For a sharper image you can make a better pinhole by cutting a one inch square hole in the carton, taping a piece of aluminum foil over this hole and then making the pinhole in the foil. Finally, tape the box shut and cover all light leaks with black tape.

A final word to the wise from LIFE: “Don’t forget to come out for fresh air.”

Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizabethRonk.

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