Halloween happens this week Sunday 31 October and while it is always an excuse for some good spooky fun, it can also be a great opportunity to explore some important educational STEM ideas in an enjoyable and approachable way.
Here are some ideas for introducing the children in your service to science, engineering and math through the spooky silliness of Halloween.
Unfortunately, Halloween technology for preschoolers is in short supply, so tech is not really represented here. The ‘T’ in STEM really comes more into play once kids are a little bit older.
However, there is still plenty of learning to be done, and more than enough fun to be had for all.
Pumpkin Volcano (science and math)
The children in your service will love watching the foaming frenzy that is the pumpkin volcano eruption when the vinegar is added to the water and bicarb, causing the cool chemical reaction.
Encourage them to help with scooping out the pumpkin flesh, and with measuring, pouring and sprinkling in all of the ingredients to boost interest and engagement.
You will need:
- A small pumpkin
- A sharp knife and large spoon to hollow it out
- A cup or container to fit inside (optional)
- Food colouring (optional)
- Dishwashing liquid
- Baking soda
- White vinegar
- Hollow out the pumpkin with care. The flesh can be used to make delicious pumpkin muffins as a treat for Halloween.
- If you’re using one, place your cup or container inside. Fill the container or the pumpkin cavity to ¾ full with water. Add food colouring if desired.
- Squeeze in four to five drops of dishwashing liquid and measure out a few tablespoons of baking soda. Count each drop of detergent and spoonful of bicarb as you add it into the pumpkin to reinforce the mathematical elements of measuring and counting.
- When you’re ready, add ¼ cup of white vinegar and watch the children’s faces as they see the volcano erupt.
Halloween Catapult (engineering)
Encourage the children to be involved in building this entertaining piece of engineering themselves, with help when needed, to allow them to better understand the structure and how it works.
You will need:
- Eight jumbo paddle pop sticks
- Four pipe cleaners or rubber bands
- A clean bottle top
- Glue (PVA or hot glue plus glue gun)
- A selection of small toys or lollies to use as projectiles
- Take six of the paddle pop sticks and stack them together, securing with a pipe cleaner or a rubber band looped around either end.
- Stack two more sticks together and secure at one end. Slide the stack of six sticks horizontally between the open ends of the two-stick stack and secure around the middle to make a cross shape.
- Glue the bottle cap onto the end of the top-most stick. This is now the bucket of your catapult. Place your ammunition in here to fire across the room. For Halloween, use small bug or monster toys for a creepy catapult, and decorate the sticks with paint, googly eyes and fake spiderwebs.
Glow in the Dark Lava Lamp (science and math)
Beautiful, educational and reusable, this luminous experiment can be used to teach about differences in density, chemical reactions and weighing and measuring.
Once the bubbles have settled, just add another tablet to set the lava off again. Most pigments can also be recharged in the sunlight if they begin to fade.
You will need:
- A clear glass container like a jar or wide-mouthed bottle.
- Vegetable oil
- Photoluminescent pigment (glow-in-the-dark powder, can be bought from online retailers)
- Effervescent Alka-Seltzer tablet
- Fill a jar or clear glass container with water to about ¼ full.
- Top the rest of the container up with vegetable oil, leaving about 2-3 centimetres of space at the top. Show the children how the oil sits on top of the water, explaining the difference in density that allows this to happen.
- Sprinkle in a teaspoon or two of photoluminescent pigment in your chosen colour.
- Next, add a quarter of a clear effervescent tablet, such as Alka-Seltzer, and watch the bubbles boil.
Skeleton Hands (science & engineering)
A lesson in human anatomy and engineering, this project also creates a fun and freaky keepsake that the kids can use to play together and scare one another, all in good fun.
You will need:
- Black heavyweight paper or thin cardboard
- A pencil
- White paper straws
- Sticky tape
- A chopstick or paddle pop stick
- Get the children to trace around one of their hands on the piece of paper or cardboard with a pencil and help them to cut out the shape. Place their hand back on the cutout and mark where the joints in each of their fingers are. Lightly crease each joint to help the hand articulate properly.
- Measure slightly less than the space in between each mark. This is where you will place your skeleton hand’s bones. For each bone, cut a piece of straw to fit between two joints in each finger, with enough space on either end to allow the fingers of your hand to bend. Each finger should have three bones, except the thumb which has two.
- Next, cut four longer pieces of straw to place on the palm of the hand below each finger, and a shorter one for the base of the thumb.
- Using clear sticky tape, get the children to secure all of the bones onto their skeleton hand shape. Give each child five pieces of thick string cut to roughly twice the length of their handprint, and get them to tie a knot on one end of each piece. These will be the tendons of their hand.
- Help them to thread each string through the bones of one skeleton finger, following the line through the straw on the palm of the hand and out the bottom. Pulling on these strings will now enable them to bend the fingers of their paper hand.
- Tape a stick such as a chopstick or large paddle pop stick onto the back of the hand to let them hold it for play.