Science activities for Halloween!

by Stephanie Chasteen on October 27, 2009

Extremepumpkins.com

Extremepumpkins.com

With halloween fast approaching, it’s time to take advantage of a frivolous holiday to do some fun science stuff.

No post about Halloween would be complete without a reference to the Grossology site. Scroll down for  “lab activities”:  This gets high marks from one teacher who says, “It has the simpliest of the slimey things, glue slime, and fake blood.”

In that vein, read the post on “how to make slime” over at Schooner of Science.  The Schooner also has a recent post on zombies — an interesting story about the origin of zombies and a toxin-like powder which may, or may not, have put people into a zombie-like state.

The “whoosh bottle” is also somewhat spooky as a demonstration.  And you get to talk about gas laws  and combustion, too.

Fire is always fun.  If you google Exploding Pumpkin Experiment or Flaming Pumpkin Experiment, you can find some great things to do with those leftover jack-o-lanterns after Halloween.  Here is Steve Spangler’s version of an Exploding Pumpkin that carves itself.  Most people just have the pumpkin shoot flame from its mouth. You can get lycopodium powder (from Flinn Scientific, for example), and use a syringe to spray it along candles at the bottom of a pumpkin’s mouth, creating a fireball coming out of the mouth.  Obviously, t there are safety measures to consider.  The video below has the best explanation of how to do this that I found.

And here are a few suggestions from veteran teacher Raleigh McElmore:

Slime:  If you can score a magnetic stirring hot plate you can easily get Poly vinyl alcohol at a chemcial supply store and make up some great slime at 40 gr/L and mixing it with a bit of Sodium Borate (known as “Borax” and in many supermarkets detergent aisle) at 40 gr/L.

Your own grossology:  In elementary school I always filled a big pyrex bowl with peeled grapes that had been soaked in red food coloring. This brings out the “veins” in the grapes and I announced that “eyeball soup” would be shared with the students. A chunk of dry ice, the grapes and fill the bowl with cheap fruit punch gives you a seething and bubbling drink with “eyeballs” floating around.  Or you can, for realism, use sheep eyeballs. Give them to your star pupils. I’ll keep an eye out for you.

And to keep them on their toes:

A great magic trick that Penn and Teller invented is to bring two cans of sparkling soda (not anything else as this is messy). Give one can to a quiet student tell them to keep the can totally quiet. Give the other can to a hyperactive sort and tell them to “shake the can as hard as you can without touching anything”.  Did I mention that this should be done outside, oh yeah, do it outside.

Take the highly shaken can, put it in plain sight and say that this is the season for strange things. Tell the students that you will change fizz in the shaken can to the quiet can. Gently touch the quiet can and touch the shaken can. Mumble incantations about AYP and other scary things. Waste at least 30 seconds in mindless babble and then take the “quiet can” and hold it high while you open it. Curve your fingers behind it and squeeze the can as you pop the lid. It will shoot fizz all over everybody as you have secretly crushed the can. After you have sprayed everyone dramatically throw the can into a nearby garbage can to avoid students seeing the crushed can.

Then quietly open the shaken can. The gas will have gone back into solution by then and it won’t do anything. Explain to the students that teachers are given these powers, but only to be used for the good. Drink the calm can and draw attention from the garbage can with the crushed evidence.

Need more ideas?  Here are some links here and here and here.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Mrs. CH October 27, 2009 at 1:56 pm

What fun ideas! We do slime a lot with groups of kids (and, let’s be honest, adults too). Instead of using Poly vinyl alcohol though, we make a solution out of white glue. Works perfectly!

avatar Captain Skellett October 27, 2009 at 10:31 pm

And I’m planning plenty more Halloween inspired posts this week! I’m transforming my house into a mad scientist’s lab for Halloween! Love the pumpkin throwing up his seeds, I was going to carve up a watermelon instead of a pumpkin because it’s spring here in Aus, but that pumpkin does look very good…

avatar Captain Skellett October 30, 2009 at 3:21 am

Hmm… not sure why that comment didn’t show up… Thanks for the shout out! I just finished a post on Frankenstein’s Monster if anyone’s after more Halloween inspired science. Definately make some slime people, it’s great fun and very easy!

avatar sciencegeekgirl October 30, 2009 at 11:54 pm

A little late to be helpful, but I just found some more good activities:

Spooky Halloween Jack-o-Lantern
Dry Ice Fog in a Halloween Jack-o-Lantern
By Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D., About.com
* pumpkin
* dry ice
* tall cup or glass
* water
1. Ok, first you need to cut around the top of the pumpkin so you can scoop out the seeds and other pumpkin guts. If you are rushed for time, you can skip this step, but it’s easier to carve a clean pumpkin.

2. Carve a face or design into the pumpkin. Keep in mind, carbon dioxide fog sinks, so more fog will flow out of the mouth of your jack-o-lantern than through its eyes. If you make the mouth relatively small, you usually can get fog to flow through the nose and eyes pretty well.

3. When you are ready for the display, set a tall container full of water inside the jack-o-lantern. Try to find a can or glass that is taller than the eyes of your jack-o-lantern, since that is the trick for getting fog to flow through the whole carving.

4. Drop a piece of dry ice into the water. Replace the top of the pumpkin. You want the lid to fit tightly so there won’t be air currents dissipating the fog.

5. You can add more dry ice over time.

Edible Fake Blood Recipes
Monday October 26, 2009
By Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D., About.com Guide to Chemistry since 2001
Sometimes you need edible fake blood. (Getty Images) What would Halloween be without blood? Fake blood can be expensive to buy, plus it’s not exactly edible, much less tasty. If you’re going for the vampire look, you want blood you don’t mind getting in your mouth. Otherwise, you might just want blood that you know is completely non-toxic. With those goals in mind, here are some recipes for realistic-looking edible fake blood. .*************************************************************************
Fake Blood Recipe #1 – Cherry Flavor
* can of cherry pie filling
* 8 ounces cream (softened) cheese
* water
1. Use a fork or spoon to remove the cherries from the pie filling.
2. Mix together the pie filling gel with the cream cheese.
3. Stir in a little water to achieve the desired consistency.
******************************************************************************
Fake Blood Recipe #2 – Strawberry Flavor
* packet of stawberry glaze
* 8 ounces cream cheese (softened)
* red and blue food coloring
1. Mix together the strawberry glaze and the cream cheese.
2. Add a drop of red and a smaller amount of blue food coloring to achieve the desired color.
*****************************************************************************
Fake Blood Recipe #3 – Sweetened, Unflavored
* 1/2 cup white corn syrup
* 1 tablespoon cornstarch
* 1/8 to 1/4 cup water
* 15 drops red food coloring
* 1-5 drops blue food coloring
# In a bowl, mix together the corn syrup and the corn starch.
# Add water until the mixture is the consistency of blood.
# Mix in food coloring until you achieve the color of blood that you want. Note: If you use blue or green food coloring or one of the neon tints, you can make ‘alien’ or insect blood using this recipe.
******************************************************************************
Fake Blood Recipe #4 – Chocolate Flavored
* corn syrup
* red and blue food coloring
* cocoa powder or chocolate syrup
* corn starch (optional)
1. Sir red food coloring into the corn syrup until you have a deep red mixture.
2. Add some cocoa powder or chocolate syrup to darken and thicken the fake blood.
3. If the color still isn’t deep enough, add a drop or more of blue food coloring.
4. Stir in a bit of corn starch if you want your blood to be thicker.

avatar Pumpkin Carving ideas October 24, 2010 at 3:40 pm

Ver nice idea of pumpkin carving.I am really impressed

Good work

avatar Spirit Halloween Coupon October 18, 2011 at 7:50 pm

Wow!! Thanks for all the great recipes! I was having a hard time finding a good blood one.

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