At certain times of the school year adding in themed activities can take any lesson plan from low-key to amazing! In October that usually means incorporating Halloween themes into your science lesson plans.
Spooky season and science are actually a great complement to one another. There are a ton of fun and engaging ways to teach students about various concepts in science class that include a hint of Halloween or something creepy that is sure to pique their interest. And you don’t have to sacrifice the rigor of your everyday lesson plans when you add in a bit of Halloween to your teaching.
Spooky Season Lesson Plan Ideas
Here are 11 lesson plan ideas that combine earth science and spooky season. You can use these specific ideas and resources, or use these as inspiration to make whatever you’re teaching in October a bit spooky (or spookier)!
- Creepy Crawlers and Ecosystems
Does this happen to you? Whenever a student spots a spider in the classroom does it lead to a bit of mini pandemonium? If so, then harness that energy with this lesson idea exploring the role of decomposers and scavengers in ecosystems.
Discuss how organisms like spiders, worms, and vultures contribute to nutrient cycling and decomposition. Relate these concepts to Halloween-themed creatures like spiders and vultures. Students can create models of decomposer-driven ecosystems using craft materials. This is a great opportunity for some collaborative work or presentation experience. Students can create the models in small groups or create them individually and present them to small groups or the whole class.
- Geology of Haunted Landscapes
Investigate eerie geological formations that are often associated with ghost stories and myths. Discuss how natural processes such as erosion, weathering, and volcanic activity can create landscapes that might seem spooky. Share some themed images like Hoodoo formations and discuss the science behind their formations. Then shift the lesson to students examining their own haunted landscapes with this no-prep project. Students enhance their research and critical thinking skills by gathering information from diverse sources and effectively present their findings to their peers. Plus, there’s a detailed rubric, which sets clear expectations for the students and eases the grading process for teachers.
- Pumpkin Science
Want a lesson that’s still thematic but maybe a little less ‘scary’? Then use one of the central symbols of the season and explore the lifecycle of a pumpkin. You can easily relate this activity to concepts like photosynthesis, plant growth, and environmental conditions.
Focus on how pumpkins are affected by weather, soil quality, and other environmental factors. Have students hypothesize how different environmental conditions might impact the size and health of pumpkins. You could even, if space and time allow, conduct some experiments with the weather to see actual effects on some sample pumpkins by having students record their (daily) observations. This is when using those small, more decorative gourds can be used to fit budget and space considerations.
- Glow-in-the-Dark Minerals
Introduce students to minerals that glow under UV light, such as fluorite. Discuss the science behind this phenomenon and its applications. Then make the learning even more tangible by getting students to create their own “glow-in-the-dark mineral” using craft materials. This hands-on exploration can accompany an explanation of the principles behind its luminescence.
- Mystery Fossils
Did you ever have the experience of reaching into a bowl of over-cooked spaghetti and being told it was brains? With your eyes closed and the power of imagination and mystery this became quite the gross but exciting experience! Consider that same use of mystery with fossils.
Present students with “mystery fossils” and have them use their knowledge of paleontology to deduce the identity and characteristics of the prehistoric creature. Create a Halloween twist by incorporating fossils of creatures that might seem spooky or mysterious, such as ancient arthropods. One way to differentiate this lesson is to begin with a think-pair-share where students brainstorm questions that can help with the process of deducing the type of fossil.
- Zombie Geology
Another option is exploring similarities between zombies and geological processes. Seems far-fetched but really there’s a clear connection through geological processes that “revive” ancient landscapes, such as tectonic activity causing old faults to become active again. Focus the lesson on a discussion of how ancient geological formations can “come back to life” through processes like earthquake activity. Bring zombies into it by relating the idea to how zombies rise from the dead.
If this is a lesson you want to do just after October then it’s a great option for the first week of November to coincide with Day of the Dead.
- Weather and Witchcraft
Weather can seem a bit mysterious or like witchcraft, especially if there’s a lack of familiarity with meteorological phenomena. Use that to your advantage in a lesson all about the science behind weather events.
Explore the historical connections between weather phenomena and myths or folklore related to witches and magic. Discuss how meteorological events like storms, lightning, and unusual cloud formations might have contributed to these stories. Check out this older article from the New York Times Magazine all about the cold-weather theory and witches with a focus on the Salem Witch Trials. Or there’s this wikipedia article about the Tempestarii all about weather-making witches and wizards from medieval lore.
- Haunted Weather Patterns
Extend a weather-related lesson into an examination of extreme weather events that might be associated with Halloween, such as thunderstorms, hurricanes, or tornadoes. Or maybe at some point in your childhood you remember having to put on your snowsuit under your Halloween costume? If so, you could add snowstorms and extreme cold fronts to the list of weather events too!
Teach students about the meteorological conditions that lead to these events and discuss safety measures. Add an evaluation option with students creating weather-themed safety brochures for “surviving” Halloween weather.
Whether you’re teaching extreme weather during spooky season or not, this ready-to-go resource all about severe weather will save you time and get students thinking about how scientists categorize dangerous weather!
- Spooky Space
Connect astronomy and Halloween by exploring the concept of “black holes” and other mysterious celestial objects. Discuss the science behind black holes and how they’re formed.
This video called “Black Holes 101” from National Geographic would work as a warm-up activity. Then, if you haven’t already examined the solar system, you could spend a bit of time with this no-prep student-friendly presentation and guided notes set all about our solar system. Extend the lesson with a spooky space-themed art project where students can depict their interpretations of black holes.
- Ghosts of Extinct Species
Shift from space to historical science with a study of extinct species from Earth’s history. Lead a class lesson and discussion about the causes of extinction, such as natural events or human activities. Make it spooky by choosing a variety of species that capture students’ imagination, like saber-toothed cats or ancient sea creatures.
- Mysteries of Migration
Finally, explore the migration habits of animals such as bats or birds – aka those that might be associated with Halloween. Focus on the science behind their migratory behavior. Study different migration patterns of a variety of animals and relate them to the concept of navigation using Earth’s magnetic field along with celestial cues. This is an ideal lesson for collaborative work in small groups or even a jigsaw where students become experts in a single animal and report back to a home group to share thereby extending everyone’s knowledge.
Interested in more resources on species migration patterns? In this low-prep unit, students research why animals migrate from one environment to another.
A Final Word on Science and Spooky Season
Incorporating hands-on activities, discussions, and creative projects can make these lessons both educational and entertaining for your students during the Halloween season. One thing to consider in using these lesson ideas is to think about how you might need to adapt these ideas to suit the grade level and needs of your students. And, if you, your school, or your students don’t celebrate Halloween or if you are teaching any of these concepts at a different time of year, these ideas can still add a bit of drama and intrigue without specifically mentioning Halloween! Use the ideas as opportunities for fun, drama, engagement, and most of all learning!