Halloween is absolutely my favorite time of year. My favorite school memories are of our Halloween festival, class parties, and wearing my costume to school! Now, I’m a teacher, and I while I still adore Halloween, I understand the havoc it can wreak on the school day.
Within our district, we are minimizing the number of parties that we are allowed to host each school year, due to time taken away from instruction. I say, “Have your pumpkin pie and eat it, too!” A party can be fun and festive, but ALSO engaging and educational! Every class party we enjoy is based around educational activities disguised as party pandemonium. Read on to see how we “put a spell” on literacy, math, and science with our Halloween Mad Science Spooktacular. Don't miss the video at the end packed with detailed photos of the entire event to give you further inspiration!
Set a Scientifically Spooky Scene: Gather plastic and glass beakers, jars, test tubes, and cylinders. Fill them with water and either add food coloring, or drop a neon glow stick into each. Make the scene even creepier by adding fake snakes, bugs, mice, bats, and even eyeballs into each container. Kick it up a notch by dropping pieces of dry ice into everything on display that is containing water and watch as students gasp in amazement.
Turn this dÃÂÃÂ©cor into a teachable moment by asking students to identify each scientific container (and its purpose), measure water into each, calculate the volume of items you drop into the containers by the amount each water level rises once the items are added, and have your scientists make hypotheses about what the mystery material is that you dropped into each container (dry ice).
CAUTION: Dry ice is harmful to bare skin. Be VERY CAUTIOUS when transporting and handling dry ice and always keep it out of reach of your students. Wear protective, coated gloves when you handle the material to drop it into each container.
Candy Corn Connections: Students pair up to read favorite Halloween tales together. I love The Ugly Pumpkin and Frank was a Monster Who Wanted to Dance. As they read, students search for text-to-self (TTS) connections. Students write about the following ways they connect to the story:
In the book I can connect with . . . (top 1/3 of candy corn)
In my own life this reminds me of . . . (middle 1/3 of candy corn)
I understand the story better now because . . . (bottom 1/3 of candy corn)
Once they record these TTS connections, they publish their answers on a tri-colored candy corn template. The TTS Candy Corn Connections look amazing and show how much the students learned from the stories!
Bat Bone Powder and Spider Spit: Things were bubbling and brewing during our Mad Science Halloween experiments and party. Before our party, we engaged in foundational hands-on science experiments as a culminating project to our states of matter science unit.
At our party, our first science experiment involved chemical reactions in matter, and it was "explosive!" Students measured and combined baking soda and vinegar to create an "explosion." Everyone loved how combining a solid and liquid could create a gas based on a chemical reaction. As they experimented, each mini-scientist recorded his/her observations and made predictions about how/why the chemical reaction happened as it did.
Ghoulish Goo: It’s alive!! . . . but what is it? Is it a solid or a liquid, or continuously changing? We dug our hands in to find out! Parent volunteers led students in a slime-making activity. Mixing this matter was fun — and messy! Hold the goo in your hand and it's a liquid, ROLL it in your hands and it morphs into a solid. Check out this website for several different slime recipes and choose one that will be the best fit for your festivities. Have your mad scientists measure ingredients, mix the slime, then record the steps to the experiments and their observations and notes about the chemical reaction and changes in states of matter that occurred as they engaged with their goo.
Bubbling Cauldron: Double, double, toil and trouble, how did we make our cauldrons bubble? With Alka-Seltzer tablets, of course! Students begin simply with water in a clear cup and then add different objects such as raisins and marshmallows to see what happens (you can label them fun names like shriveled bat brains and mummy-mallows). Then, they add a frightful fizzy tablet (Alka-Seltzer) and watch as the effervescent bubbles make those shriveled bat brains dance. Students record reactions before and after adding the tablets, as well as the difference in movement between the raisins and marshmallows (or any other items you wish to put into the mixture). Add math into this experiment by having students time, count, and/or measure the “bouncing” of the items in the liquid.
Spooky Snacks: Being a mad scientist can make you work up quite an appetite. After all, using so much brainpower requires food fuel! Take your party snacks from tasty to terrifically educational treats with these three party food activities. My favorite treat was one I made, but you could have your students help with it too. Use clean petri dishes as containers for Jell-O. Before the Jell-O solidifies, drop in gummy worms or other gross edibles to make them look like bacteria growing in the dishes! NOTE: Always be sure to follow school and district regulations for food within classrooms. Verify any food allergies, sensitivities, or dietary restrictions before serving any food in your classroom.
Molecule Munchies: Tie in 3-D geometry to party treats by having students craft molecule munchies. Using toothpicks and red and green grapes (pineapple, berries, apple cubes, or cheese cubes also work), mad scientists create 3-D molecule shapes that are both yummy and tie in geometry skills. Have your students sketch their snack shapes, identify which 3-D figures they created (cube, rectangular prism, etc.), and then name how many sides, faces, and vertices their snack possesses.
Werewolf Fur: Make Werewolf Fur as a project to experiment with heat-related changes in matter. First observe and record the states of matter of each ingredient (equal parts chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, chow mein noodles) BEFORE mixing and cooking/cooling. Then proceed with the recipe and record your observations and changes in states of matter when ingredients are heated, mixed, scooped, and cooled.
This is exciting, because the ingredients start out as all solids, then some melt when heated, but in the end everything returns to a solid state of matter when cooled. When you are finished, have students write about the changes, their favorite ingredients, words to describe the Werewolf Fur, and graph their results.
Witches’ Brew: This engaging and festive activity that I found for FREE from Rachelle Smith involves an experiment with states of matter, matter mixtures, and many other cross-curricular connections and activities.
Before students start, they should practice reading the Witches' Brew poem to improve their fluency and identify rhyming words. Next, students count and/or measure quantities of each ingredient into their own containers. After students observe changes in the states of matter before, during, and after making Witches' Brew (trail mix), have them write about and graph their favorite and least favorite ingredients.
Finally, your class may generate adjectives to describe the taste of their mixtures. Best of all, students are able to take their Witches' Brew mixtures home! Download the poem, grocery list, instructions, and recording sheets for FREE to make this activity super simple!
Be a Party Planning Pro: Don’t stress over party planning. Pick and choose a few of your favorite ideas for activities and snacks from above. Join forces with parent volunteers to gather supplies, prep food for snacks, and supervise each station at your party.
I have found online volunteer and supply websites like Sign Up Genius and Volunteer Spot to be the answer to my party planning prayers! Put everything you need from people-power to party and snack supplies on these sites. Parents sign up on a first-come-first-serve basis, and the site takes care of managing the sign up for you. Email confirmation and reminders are automatically sent to anyone who signed up to volunteer or donate items. Take advantage of this technology, as it will save you and your parent volunteers many headaches and allow you to better enjoy the party.
More Frighteningly Clever Ideas: Looking for more ways to easily integrate science into your Halloween party, month of October science lessons or other hands-on science activities? Make it simple and fun with these science resources from Scholastic.