By Christina Bartolomeo
Fun Halloween Activities and New Tricks for Treating Your Students
Halloween may be a little different this year—but you can still find creative ways to help kids enjoy and learn from the sights, sounds and stories of the spooky season! See below for nine great ideas for Halloween activities with your students—in person, remotely or to suggest to parents. We’ve also included a lesson on the Day of the Dead (El Día de los Muertos), the tradition that originated in Mexico centuries ago to honor and remember departed family members.
Halloween Activities for PreK and Elementary Students
The Halloween Tree Activity Kit: This free kit for pre-K to second-grade kids can be used on its own or along with the charming picture book The Halloween Tree. Activities include coloring and cutting out a Halloween ornament, a “finding the differences in the Halloween scene” challenge, spooky snacks (strawberry ghosts and edible worms), a Halloween word search and making tissue-paper ghosts to hang in your very own Halloween tree.
Quackenstein Hatches a Family: Read by Kristen Bell: As cute as it is creepy, this tale helps K-2 children explore themes of family and adoption. All the animals in the zoo have friends and family to love—except Quackenstein. Lonely in his ramshackle corner with “no one to snuggle,” he decides to adopt an orphaned egg. But when the hatchling isn’t the baby duckling Quack expects, he must face his fears. Accompanied by a teacher guide, this book is part of the SAG-AFTRA Foundation’s award-winning website, Storyline Online, which streams videos featuring actors reading children’s books alongside creatively produced illustrations. Readers include Oprah Winfrey, Chris Pine, Rita Moreno, Kevin Costner, Lily Tomlin, Sarah Silverman, Betty White, Wanda Sykes and more. Other October offerings include ¡Los Zombis No Comen Verduras! (Zombies Don't Eat Veggies!) read by Jaime Camil, and Tomie dePaola’s classic Strega Nona, read by Mary Steenburgen.
Halloween Activity Booklet: This fun and interactive K-2 Halloween activity booklet includes word search, word scramble, acrostic poem templates, “circle the odd one out” and “rank by smallest to largest.”
Being Afraid of Monsters (A Children’s Literature Unit): This K-2 unit focuses on children’s books about monsters, from There’s a Nightmare in My Closet by Mercer Mayer to Judith Viorst’s My Mama Says There Aren’t Any Zombies, Ghosts, Vampires, Creatures, Demons, Monsters, Fiends, Goblins, Or Things. It includes a variety of fun activities for students to talk about monsters, including a free color-in monster and ghost parade, a “My Nightmare” drawing and sharing exercise, and a Monster Book Chart so kids can track their Halloween reading.
Baby Bat Cups: Despite bats’ scary reputation, they have a softer maternal side, using amazing sensory perception and infant identification skills to feed their young. This “match the sounds and smells” activity for grades 3-7 turns students into mama bats returning to the bat cave with food for their babies after a night of hunting mosquitos. The catch? There are 3 million baby bats in the dark, cold cave/nursery, huddled tightly together. Using a simple demonstration game made with plastic cups and kitchen ingredients, students can memorize and pair up specific scents and sounds—just like a mother bat does to find her own baby’s smell and voice in the crowded bat cave.
Halloween Activities for Middle and High School Students
Science Friday’s “To the Bat Cave!” video: Middle and high school students will enjoy (and go “ewww” at) this five-minute video featuring bat biologist Nickolay Hristov of UNC’s Center for Design Innovation and Winston-Salem State University. It demonstrates Hristov’s new techniques for filming and visualizing bats and the caves they occupy, using tools such as a long-range laser scanner for modeling bat cave structure, and portable thermal cameras to capture bat life when the lights are off. The video allows students to “fly through” the bat cave as a real bat would and captures the trials and tribulations of a bat biologist who embraces the same direct observational methods Darwin used. (Hristov’s work involves being peed on by bats and walking on a 10-meter “carpet of bat poop” inside bat caves.)
Halloween Math Activity: Mini Murder Mystery: Middle school students can use simple and long calculation, decimals and fractions to solve the who, when, where and why of a murder mystery with six scary suspects.
Day of The Dead: Student Activity: The Day of the Dead (El Día de los Muertos) is a tradition that goes back about 3,000 years, to rituals honoring the dead in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. It is celebrated in Mexico and parts of America each year from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2. With this activity, middle school students can gain an appreciation for the deep cultural and spiritual roots of the Day of the Dead by watching a short video on the background of the holiday and then making their own Day of the Dead masks. This resource comes with a PowerPoint outlining ways teachers can engage students in the mask-making activity and the deeper significance of this tradition.
Tim Burton: The Artist’s Process: This in-depth curriculum for grades 6 through 12 uses materials developed around a 2011 Los Angeles County Museum of Art major retrospective of Tim Burton’s work as a film director, artist, illustrator, photographer and writer. It explores the artistic process and highlights key concepts in Burton’s body of work (including his own childhood challenges such as loneliness, alienation and isolation). It features reproductions from the LACMA exhibit and from the work of artists, writers and filmmakers who inspired Burton or whose work resonates with Burton’s (including Francisco de Goya, Odilon Redon, Edgar Allan Poe, the Mannerist school of painting and German Expressionist filmmaking). It offers students a wide range of discussion topics and activities, from creating and visualizing characters, to making their own sketchbooks to brainstorm ideas and find their unique artistic style, to storyboarding their own autobiographies.
Science Friday’s Monster Microbiology, 101: The many interactions we have with other species—and their microbes—make us who we are, whether that be man, woman… or werewolf. By imagining the types of bacteria that would live on ghouls such as vampires, mummies, zombies and werewolves, this high school lesson hits on a few insights into real-life microbial relationships. For example, wouldn’t the Aeromonas bacteria that may help vampire bats, mosquitoes and leeches digest blood likely dwell in the guts of vampires, too? How would zombies’ lack of immune systems make their decomposing skin a “microbial wonderland”? What’s the science behind the fact that monster-movie mummies and archaeological ones both can’t afford to get wet? Why would beans give werewolves gas?
Despite the current circumstances we find ourselves in, I hope you have a “Spooktacular” and educational time celebrating the Halloween holiday this year. Do you have any other Halloween activities or ideas for celebrating Halloween during the COVID-19 pandemic? Let our community know in the comments below!
Christina Bartolomeo is an Assistant Director in the Communications Department of the American Federation of Teachers.