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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