Halloween Goes to School with MiddleWeb

a candy-pumpkin-150Updated October 2017

Retailers expect to see $2.5 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, but content related resources abound.

For a first hand report of Halloween learning for elementary students, read Mary Tarashuk’s Kids on the Cusp post, A Halloween Teacher Self Evaluation. It’s packed with ideas perfect for her fourth graders and 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. And don’t miss the comment from Ms. Garcia recommending a recitation of “The Raven” from The Simpsons (Season 2, episode 3 minute 16 – $1.99 at Amazon Instant Video).

For less movement but more history, visit Halloween History: A Visual Timeline  from InfoNewt’s portfolio, created for FrightCatalog.com. The timeline is included in the NEA’s updated Halloween Lessons, Activities & Resources by Phil Nast.

Placing Halloween in History

The History Channel features videos (among them an engaging history lesson as well as views of witches, pumpkins, commercialization, 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.’

HW 1 blue w moon jl left pngEDSITEment! provides 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 Scary Stories

Want to see if a book or other media 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.

Find lots more ideas for scary reading from the Monster Librarian who offers annotated lists – one for 12-and-under and another for teens. The site also provides a collection of lesson plans, including one by Kellie Hayden at Bright Hub Education, Get Creative in Middle School With a Scary Short Story Writing.

Lurching into Science and Math

hw 2 bl jl on orange ltHalloween can enter the science classroom by way of astronomy. Writing at EarthSky, Bruce McClure gives scientific and historical background in explaining that Halloween is associated with the ancient Celtic cross-quarter day which marks the approximate midway point between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice.

Halloween 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 experiments looking into candy, try this NPR report. You may wish to avoid the last few ideas.

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 potentially visit each U.S. home? Or geography: What are five spooky places to spend Halloween? (3 are in N.C.!)

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. Online teacher resources center on the elementary grades.

Students can also develop more sensitivity to others’ needs through a Teaching Tolerance grades 3-5 lesson 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.

And last – but most definitely not least – education resource impresario Larry Ferlazzo presents “a zillion” resources including infographics and videos at his page The Best Websites for Learning about Halloween.

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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