Blog: Bright Ideas

Halloween STEM Activities Combine Learning and Holiday Fun

Say “Halloween” and kids will most likely think costumes and candy, but did you know that this favorite fall holiday is a great time to try some fun and enriching STEM activities? The imagery and excitement generated by this one special night can support a whole month’s worth of fun with science, technology, engineering and math. Add in art and kids can enjoy a STEAM-y October filled with fun and festive learning activities.

Halloween-themed Activities for Kids

Halloween is a great jumping off point for cool STEAM activities. But just a note: avoid using the word magic to describe what happens. Though they might seem quite mystical and remarkable, there is a scientific explanation, so be sure to talk about it. Here are some great holiday-themed activities to try together:

  • Polymer science (aka slime!)Kids love slime in any season, but this particular season allows for a customized mixture that fits the holiday theme. Pick up some ingredients and fun mix-ins at the dollar store and have a great time with it. Talk about the science and help kids make observations, like differentiating between a solid (a state of matter with a definite size and shape) and a liquid (a state of matter that has a definite size but no definite shape). Did you know that slime is a non-Newtonian fluid, which exhibits characteristics of both liquids and solids? 
  • Graphing — After trick-or-treating, help kids make a candy “bar” graph. First, they sort their treats into categories by type (chocolate, chewy, hard candy, multicolored) or by shape (rectangle, sphere, round) or by other observable characteristics. Then help them represent their collection on a simple bar graph, using a ruler for straight lines and labeling the vertical and horizontal axes. Older kids can use a benchmark, such as one bar represents 5 pieces; be sure they include a key to aid in interpretation. Younger kids can draw pictures or even make simple tally marks. Talk about the data by asking questions that help kids interpret the results. Which type did you receive the most of? How many? The least? How many of those? What conclusions can you draw from this data?
  • Estimation and Measurement — Before carving jack-o-lanterns, give those pumpkins a quick work-up. Have kids estimate how much their pumpkin weighs, how tall and how big around it is, and how many seeds it contains; then help kids measure. You will need a bathroom scale, a ruler or yardstick and a tape measure. Talk about the math as you help them carve their pumpkins: compare the differences between kids’ estimates and the actual measurements. Estimating is a higher order thinking skill that helps kids develop number concepts. It is important in math at all grade levels.
  • Engineering — Take a page from the Novel Engineering project at Tufts University and read a Halloween story together. Once the conflict is revealed, bookmark the page to finish later, then provide supplies and materials for kids to engineer a solution to the story’s problem. Simple materials are OK: cardboard, small boxes, construction paper, craft sticks, pipe cleaners, etc. Talk about their engineering design once kids have had some time to tinker; encourage them to explain their creative problem-solving process. Then finish reading the story to see how the protagonist resolved their conflict.
  • Magnetism — With some craft supplies and small magnets, kids can create a Halloween scene complete with a flying ghost. Have them use colored pencils or watercolor paints to make a spooky scene on cardstock or poster board. While that is drying, have them draw and cut out a ghost or witch and fasten a couple paper clips to the back with tape or hot glue. With their character on top of the scene and a magnet underneath, kids can animate it by moving the magnet below the board. Talk about what makes magnets work; use two magnets to demonstrate the push and pull of magnetic forces as same and opposite poles are brought together.
  • Living things — While the holiday has its share of imaginary creatures, Halloween also features black cats, owls and bats. Visit the library to get some books for a study of one of these fascinating species. Choose a mix of literature and informational text, and discuss the difference between reality and fiction. Get a “bird’s eye” view of an owl’s nest on your computer or tablet. Depending on the time of year, you can view the birds in real-time or on video. Talk about the needs of living things, like food, water, air and shelter. Compare these to our needs as human beings.
  • Static electricity — A simple balloon can provide a hair-raising adventure for kids. As a balloon is rubbed on clean, dry hair, it picks up electrons, giving it a slight negative charge. When pulled away from the head, the now slightly positive hair is attracted to the balloon and stands on end. Talk about static electricity which results when positive and negative charges are imbalanced. Think of other examples, like lightning, the shock that occurs when you drag your feet on carpet then touch a metal doorknob and static cling. 

Middle school kids can get in on the Halloween STEM activities, too. How about coding a photo booth app to create virtual costumes? Beginning coders can learn some basics of Javascript, CSS and HTML in a one hour video tutorial courtesy of Code.org and Code Avengers.

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Encouraging the STEAM Bug All Year Round

Parents can help kids interested in science, technology, engineering, art and math find fun and engaging activities all year round. Summer vacation offers the opportunity to indulge their passion at an innovation camp like Galileo. At Camp G, kids from pre-K through 8th grade can find specially designed STEAM activities to pique their curiosity and challenge their creative energies. With four exciting themes for younger kids and eleven intriguing majors for middle schoolers, there is something for everyone. In fact, the greatest challenge may be getting them to choose just one. Enthusiastic staff members, many of whom are professional educators lead campers through guided inquiries in a fun and playful atmosphere

Encouraging kids’ interest in science and tech through Halloween STEM activities provides seasonal fun and quality time together. But it also feeds their curiosity and creativity, allowing them to develop skills that will benefit them in school immediately and may lead them toward meaningful and rewarding careers someday.

For STEAM fun that challenges kids’ curiosity and creativity, check out these camps in your area: San Francisco, Southern California, and Chicagoland. Sign up for our mailing list to keep up-to-date with camp happenings and innovation resources. Or, for more information about Galileo camps, contact us here.