Halloween is coming up, and it is always a fun time to do some science experiments. I always try and find an experiment that fits my content area and ensures students are learning a concept they would have to learn in my class anyway. For example, elephant toothpaste in a jack-o-lantern is fun, but it doesn't have anything to do with biology, so it's a pass for me. (Yes, I'm a bit of a party pooper). However, I've come up with a list of ideas you can do for each content area, so hopefully you can find an experiment that is both engaging, AND tied to your curriculum!
If you teach BIOLOGY
This idea is for my fellow biology teacher friends! It seems like every year the day after Halloween all you do is hear rustling of candy wrappers begin opened during class. It's a battle I've stopped trying to fight. Instead of saying "put away the candy," tell them to get it out! Have students pull out their candy, lay it on their desks, and classify it and make a cladogram. You will have some students that don't bring in candy, so I bring in my leftover candy from home. It's a win-win: students get to learn while eating candy, and I don't eat all the leftovers and save myself some time at the gym!
If you are teaching genetics, another fun biology lab is to do a DNA extraction. I typically use strawberries, but during Halloween try extracting pumpkin DNA instead!
If you teach ASTRONOMY
Glow sticks are readily available at the stores around Halloween and are great for demonstrating chemical reactions. They are also great for teaching the concept that hotter and larger stars shine the brightest. Give students 3 glow sticks, have them place one in a beaker of ice water, one in a beaker of room temperature water, and one in a beaker of hot water. Have them compare the luminosity of the 3 glow sticks over a span of 10-15 minutes.
If you teach CHEMISTRY
Nothing says Halloween like some spooky bubbling potions! One of the best parts of teaching chemistry is getting to play with dry ice! In this lab activity, students explore phase changes and sublimation while comparing the change in mass of dry ice in water vs. regular ice in water. I have students use triple beam balances instead of electronic scales because it is good practice for them to adjust the hanging masses and practice their measurement skills.
If you'd rather not mess with dry ice, have your students measure density of different "potions" instead. Get some different liquids (water, rubbing alcohol, oil, soap, etc) add some food coloring, and have them measure the density of each liquid. Once they are done they can figure out the order of the layers to make a density column.
Want to review states of matter? Make some ooblek "ghost guts!" Mix 1 part water to 2 parts cornstarch and have fun getting messy! (Bonus Tip: use tonic water instead of tap water to make it glow in the dark under a black light! Check out this blog post for more glow-in-the-dark experiments!)
If you teach FORENSICS
Analyzing blood spatter is always an easy way to keep students engaged! Check out this quick and easy lab from the science spot where students learn about blood spatter patterns.
Want to include some science literacy? Have students read this article about The Body Farm and how scientists have learned about human decomposition rates.
If you teach PHYSICS
Looking for a STEM challenge that is easy and engaging? Have your students build candy corn catapults! Give students some materials like popsicle sticks, spoons, rubber bands, and tape, and have them create catapults. Offer prizes for the group that can catapult their candy corn the furthest.
Looking for more of a WOW factor? This activity is always fun and a great way to discuss forces! All you need is a pumpkin and some rubber bands (okay.... a lot of rubber bands). Ask students if you think it is possible for rubber bands to make a pumpkin explode. After discussion of how it could be done, take the students outside and have them start putting rubber bands around the center of the pumpkin. (Tip: be sure to buy a medium sized pumpkin- too small and it won't work and too big the rubber bands won't fit). Continue adding rubber bands until it explodes! If students are helping add the rubber bands, I would advise having them wear goggles.
Lastly, if you just want to re-enforce some scientific method skills (observation and inference, CER, and graphing), check out these fun Halloween themed worksheets!
I hope you have a Spook-tacular Science Halloween!