Halloween can be an exciting time for many children, but with its origins of All Hallows Eve seen as a pagan festival it can be a no go for many schools.
Whether schools choose to celebrate Halloween or not, it provides great opportunities to engage children in science. You can use the rich contexts available to hook the children in to a variety of science topics and some great practical work.
The Ofsted research review into science was clear about not doing science activities just for fun but to ensure they have a clear purpose and are linked to the curriculum. The review states “A recent report from The Ogden Trust and The University of Manchester describes the realities of primary pupils’ science learning. It shows that pupils regularly experience ‘fun activities’ without developing a deep understanding of the associated scientific concepts”. With this in mind, it is vital that all activities have a purpose clearly linked to learning scientific content or developing working scientifically skills.
There are so many examples of best practice and great resources available, I have collated a few here.
One primary school I visited created a “blood, bones and body bits” unit of work for each year in Key Stage 2 that was taught around Halloween. Year 3 covered skeletons and muscles, Year 4 looked at teeth and the digestive system. Year 5 and 6 linked up with their local secondary school to look at the circulatory system and had seen a heart dissection. Although the staff made very little reference to Halloween in the sessions, I saw the children were clearly hooked and making their own references when answering questions.
A lovely activity for Year 3 is “funny Bones” from Explorify. It's one of their odd one out activities getting children to observe three different skeletons and discuss things like similarities and differences as well as suggest what the creature would look like when it is alive and where it may live. It's a great opportunity for discussion.
Primary Science Teaching Trust (PSTT) have a wide variety of activities, and in particular some great activities to upskill the teacher to facilitate discussion with the children in class. This activity explains about vertebrae and how they may vary between organisms.
The Royal Society of Chemistry website is another great place for resources. The Year 5 materials topic encourages children to learn about new materials being made, “explain that some changes result in the formation of new materials, and that this kind of change is not usually reversible, including changes associated with burning, and the action of acid on bicarbonate of soda”. Their 'freaky hand' practical is a great example of this. Each activity from the RSC comes with a video and full explanation of how to do the activity and the science behind it.