Halloween Goes to School with MiddleWeb

a candy-pumpkin-150It’s the most scary time of the year!

Retailers expect to see $2.6 BILLION in Halloween candy sales in the United States this fall. Lots of those goodies go into the tummies of over 40 million Americans aged 5 to 14.  As kids move through elementary school to the middle grades, the daily schedule and curriculum pressures make candy-filled Halloween classroom parties less likely (or threatening?!), but content related resources abound.

For a first-hand report of Halloween learning for upper elementary students, read our grades 4-5 blogger Mary Tarashuk’s Kids on the Cusp post, A Halloween Teacher Self Evaluation. It’s packed with ideas perfect for sub-teens and sweetened with her generous sense of humor.

Conjuring Up Visions

To immerse kids in moving images, try VideoAmy’s  Five-Minute Film Festival: Happy Halloween! at Edutopia. The video links along with links to Halloween issues and global locations are behaving after five years, but several of the extra resources at the end are defunct now.  Elsewhere don’t miss the comment from Ms. Garcia recommending a recitation of “The Raven” from The Simpsons (Season 2, episode 3 minute 16 – you can look on YouTube or find the episode “Treehouse of Horror” for $1.99 at Amazon Instant Video).

For less movement but more history, visit Halloween History: A Visual Timeline  from InfoNewt’s portfolio, a rich infographic created for FrightCatalog.com. The timeline is included in the NEA’s updated Halloween Lessons, Activities & Resources by Phil Nast, helpfully sorted into EL, MS and HS sections.

Placing Halloween in History

The History Channel features videos (among them an engaging history lesson as well as views of witches, pumpkins, commercialization (“One quarter of all the candy sold annually in the U.S. is purchased for Halloween”), make-up strategies, the psychology of fear, and more). The website also provides a thorough review of Halloween’s development from Celtic beliefs to the relatively recent use of the term ‘trick or treat.’ Video ads now introduce many pages.

HW 1 blue w moon jl left pngEDSITEment! from the National Endowment for the Humanities is a super resource, providing an overview of fall celebrations from other cultures along with Halloween discussion starters and links to lessons and American Memory resources. Discussion and links include Los Dias de los Muertos (The Days of the Dead).

Unearthing Really Scary Stories

Want to see if a book or video has just the right amount of fright for your class of tweens or teens? Common Sense Media lets you and parents search by title or subject. Here’s one frightful list: Best Ghost Stories for Kids and Teens.

You can see a sample of CSM’s rating approach by checking out this overview of Jonathan Stroud’s The Screaming Staircase (“very, very scary”) from the Lockwood & Co. series.

Lurching into Science and Math

Halloween can enter the science classroom by way of astronomy. Writing at EarthSky, Bruce McClure gives scientific and historical background in explaining that Halloween is also an astronomical holiday, associated with the ancient Celtic cross-quarter day which marks the approximate midway point between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice.

hw 2 bl jl on orange ltHalloween is one of the year’s four cross-quarter days. It is the modern-day descendant from Samhain, a festival of the ancient Celts and Druids. The Pleiades star cluster also plays a role in this story, because Samhain was said to happen on the night that the Pleiades star cluster culminated – or reached its highest point in the sky – at midnight. McClure’s post includes a drawing of the equinoxes, the solstices, and the intervening four cross-quarter days.

For science experiments looking into candy, try this National Public Radio feature. You can decide whether the last few ideas (making faux animal poop from leftover Tootsie Rolls and Hershey’s Kisses) would be a good idea in your class.

MATH? The Census Bureau’s annual Facts for Features Halloween post is a starting place for number crunching. What on average is the cost per person of the candy consumed at Halloween? How many Trick or Treaters ages 5-15 potentially visit U.S. homes?

Materializing Beyond the Classroom

hw 3 wave jl ltHalloween can be a time for service learning: hosting a party for younger kids, collecting food for an agency that serves children, and more.

Of course the best known opportunity for Halloween-related service activities is learning through UNICEF about children’s worldwide hunger and how students can help. For 2019 kids and grownups are invited to become heroes as they raise funds for the UN agency.

Students can also develop more sensitivity to others’ needs through a Teaching Tolerance grades 3-5 lesson (adaptable for older kids) on stereotypes represented by Halloween costumes: what is sold to girls as opposed to boys, what racial stereotypes are reinforced by some costumes, and more.

An Overflowing Bag of Halloween Goodies

hw 4 happy hwWant more Halloween resources? Visit the NYT Learning Network’s Halloween collection for opinion essays, lesson plans, poetry pairings and videos.

The Teaching Channel pins to the Learning Network and more at its Halloween Pinterest board.

This fall Richard Byrne at Free Technology for Teachers offers Math & Science Halloween Lessons and Find Halloween ELA Articles on ReadWorks, among other spooky blog posts.

And last – but most definitely not least – education resource impresario Larry Ferlazzo presents “a zillion” resources including infographics and videos at his website.

Susan Curtis

Susan Curtis is co-editor of MiddleWeb.com. In a long career, she has taught middle grades students, worked in human services, edited a variety of publications and wrangled the reference desk in libraries.

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