Educational Activities for Halloween 2019
Halloween is an exciting time. Students are nearly buzzing with the anticipation of dressing up, staying up late, and—of course—all of the candy to come. This excitement can be disruptive in the classroom. In recent years, some schools have even taken the step of cancelling regular school-wide Halloween activities to avoid this distraction. One Oregon elementary school principal explained their decision to cancel the annual costume contest, writing, “teachers overwhelmingly feel that the time lost from instruction caused by costumes … is too valuable.”
Another principal takes a more middle-of-the-road perspective. He says, “It’s always a balancing act of trying to balance the need to stay focused for academics versus having a little fun with it, and you want to do both.”
This year, instead of trying to wrench your students away from their Halloween frenzy, try leaning into the Halloween theme with these spooky science experiments and eerily educational Halloween activities!
Activity: Baby Bat Cups
Nothing represents Halloween more than the spooky, blood-sucking creatures of the night—bats! Though many people shy away from bats, they aren’t actually so scary. Very few bat species drink blood (those that do mostly get their fill from livestock, who are largely unaffected) and they keep bugs, spiders, and other pests at bay by eating them.
The truth is, bats are much more than just spooky seasonal symbols, and they have a lot more in common with humans than you might expect. To begin with, we’re both mammals. All mammals moms take care of their babies and raise them on breastmilk. But this doesn’t mean that our childhoods look exactly the same. Free-tailed bat moms leave their babies hanging in a cave with other bat pups, coming back to feed them only twice a day. How does mom find her baby in a sea of hundreds of bat babies? Find out in this hands-on activity for elementary and middle grade students: Baby Bat Cups.
This activity is featured on the American Federation of Teachers’ Share My Lesson Halloween Resource Roundup. It is drawn from the Teacher’s Guide for If My Mom Were A Platypus: Mammal Babies and Their Mothers. Check out the book to learn how different your life would be if your mom were a bat, lion, platypus, and more! Book and Teacher’s Guide both available in Spanish.
Short Science Mysteries
The One Minute Mysteries series, by father-daughter team Eric and Natalie Yoder, are jam-packed with real-world scenarios that show students how STEM skills and critical thinking apply to their every-day life… even Halloween!
The brainteasers can be used as independent reading for kids, a guessing game for families, a springboard for school projects, a bell ringer for teachers, or an assessment tool for math and science knowledge and literacy.
Try out these seasonal sample mysteries for ages 8-12/grades 4-8 free of charge.
Belinda and Madison are sure their witch jack-o-lantern will win their neighborhood pumpkin-carving contest. They’ve even covered all the openings with construction paper so the light will glow green. But when they come back from trick-or-treating, their candle has blown out…again!
Have they been sabotaged? Is there something supernatural at work? Help Belinda and Madison figure out who or what is to blame with this spooky science mystery.
Mystery drawn from One Minute Mysteries: 65 Short Mysteries You Solve with Science.
Kassandra, Ingrid, Quan, Preston, and Ricky’s homeroom is having their annual Halloween party. The students are helping decorate the classroom with signs, streamers, and fake blood. But something isn’t quite right...
Who’s messing with the decorations? Click here to help the students figure out what’s been going wrong before the party begins!
Mystery drawn from One Minute Mysteries: 65 More Short Mysteries You Solve with Science.
Satisfy your students’ sweet tooth with this mouth-watering math mystery!
When Ms. Hanson takes her students to the candy store, Patti is tasked with counting out 1,000 pieces of candy for a classroom craft. Can you help Patti and her friend Lulu portion out their haul without counting each individual wrapped candy?
Mystery drawn from One Minute Mysteries: 65 Short Mysteries You Solve with Math.
Hair-Raising Reads: Ghost in the Water
Blended STEM fiction books are a great way to advance science, technology, engineering, and math concepts without overwhelming your students. The perfect blend of entertaining and educational, Ghost in the Water is a fast-paced middle-grade mystery in the style of Scooby-Doo. Your students will have so much fun following the story that they won’t even realize how much they’re learning along the way!
John Hawkins is in yet another new school as he begins the 7th grade. His life would be just fine except for the fact that Dowser, the school bully, has it out for him.
Things change when his passion for robotics lands him an invitation to be a part of a secret club. John joins Malena, Natsumi, Hector, and Kimmey as the newest member of the League of Scientists. Together, these friends pool their knowledge of biology, technology, logic, and chemistry to unravel the mysteries that haunt their quiet town of East Rapids. The League is in a race to solve the secret of the ghost who is terrorizing the middle school pool.
This book is recommended by the National Science Teachers’ Association and has been awarded the American Institute of Physics’ Science Communication Award (Science Writing for Children). It also won the Tillywig “Brain Child” Award, the reviewers writing: There's never a moment where the considerable amount of educational material feels inserted. The main characters, who are bright, energetic students the same age as the intended audience, ring true. Their banter and camaraderie feels authentic, as do the fears, challenges, and victories they navigate from day to day. Meanwhile the story, a compelling mystery, is loaded with chemistry, physics, biology, robotics, math, technology, language arts, and more, and because the context in which these are delivered is engrossing and relatable, readers devour it with pleasure.
An extensive Teacher’s Guide, full of hands-on activities, and chapter-by-chapter breakdown, and more information, is available for free download.
What will be brewing in your classroom this Halloween week? Let us know in the comments below, or tweet us @SciNaturally, and be sure to let us know if you use any of our activities with your students!