Halloween is almost here, and we have just the thing to celebrate with your kids and classroom! I love a good Halloween Slime activity to discuss non-Newtonian fluids, or learning chemistry with a “Witches Brew” recipe, but an engineering challenge is my favorite way to immerse kids in a hands-on STEM learning environment throughout the fall season.
There are so many fun Halloween themed books that my kids enjoy reading this time of year. One of our favorites is “Room on the Broom” by Julia Donaldson about an accommodating witch whose new animal friends end up saving her life. This story plays out in a playful rhyme with beautiful illustrations of a witch of admirable character. If you have not read this book yet, I recommend you check it out! But don’t stop there; extend the fun with a STEM challenge! Your budding engineers will be ecstatic to hear that there is an additional chapter to the witch in this story and the witch needs their help!
Rescue the Witch STEM Challenge
Complementing the wonderful book, "Room on the Broom", although reading this book is not necessary, read the poetic storyline as the witch continues on her journey. Then accept the mission to rescue the witch who has fallen into her cauldron! Your kids will use the Engineering Design Process and design a device to save the witch.
This product includes: a story to read, introduction to the Engineering Design Process, student worksheets for the challenge, and math extension questions tailored to each grade level (K-4th).
For continued fun and learning, don’t miss out on our best-selling catapult design challenge, now adapted for your Halloween enjoyment.
Pumpkin Chunkin' STEM Catapult Activity
This product is an action packed project, loaded with engineering, geometry, ratios, critical thinking, and teamwork in an engaging fall themed activity your students will love! Using the engineering design process along with math skills, teams of students will build two catapult designs from common materials. Each team will then test at three stations: Distance, Accuracy, and Power as they propel their pumpkins into the air.
Included are follow-up math problems for enhanced learning. One of my favorite STEM activities! (For grades 3 - 9)
After the Halloween festivities are over, what do you do with the pumpkin leftovers? We use them for some more STEM fun!
Pumpkin French Toast Tower
First, at my house, we started the morning off with some seasonal pumpkin French toast (recipe here) – so yum! After quickly devouring some, I then cut the rest using FunBites food cutter into perfect little squares. I usually do this for my littles anyway (so much easier than watching my food get cold while I make a million tiny bite size pieces of food!). This time however, we made this breakfast into a yummy STEM challenge.
Who can stack their pumpkin French toast “bricks” to make the tallest tower?
It was a lot of fun, while sneaking in some lessons on stability and material properties. I asked questions like: What is important about the base of your tower? Does more syrup help or hurt your structure? Does the crust or the middle of the toast make a better “brick”? How could you improve your design next time?
Now we have used the pumpkin puree insides from our carving adventures, but what about the seeds? We had a ton of seeds left, and the first thing I like to do is clean them, let them dry, then roast and eat them! Look here for some great recipe variations
We also saved some pumpkin seeds for a mesmerizing lesson on friction.
Pumpkin Seed Friction Experiment
The goal is to pour pumpkin seeds into a bottle such that you can lift the whole thing by a pencil or stick that is inserted into the bottle. Here is what you will need:
· Pumpkin seeds
· Pencil or stick
· Medium sized plastic or glass bottle
Now here is what you do:
1. Ask the question: “Do you think I can lift a bottle of pumpkin seeds with a pencil/stick?” Whether they say “yes” or “no” have them justify their answer to get their brains warmed up to critical thinking.
2. Place the pencil/stick into the bottle
3. Slowly add pumpkin seeds until the bottle is full
4. Bang the bottle gently in your hands to settle the pumpkin seeds
5. Add more pumpkin seeds if necessary (more room may have been created after the previous step)
6. Place the chop stick into the bottle
7. Hold onto the pencil/stick and lift it up slowly. The pencil/stick should stay securely in the pumpkin seeds and the bottle should rise with it. (the pumpkin seeds may need to be packed in more tightly if this does not work)
8. Ask “What is going on here?”
Friction is the resistance something experiences as it moves against another object. In other words, it is a force that opposes movement. When you pull up on the pencil there is frictional force between the pencil and all the surfaces of the pumpkin seeds it is touching. This interaction is preventing the pencil from slipping out of the bottle. In this case, the frictional force is so great due to the packed-in nature of the seeds, that you are able to pick up the entire bottle by just the pencil as if everything inside the bottle were glued together.
You can experiment with different materials inside the bottle to see if the results are the same. We adapted this experiment from this one that uses rice and has a freebie worksheet to record observations.
Hope your Halloween is full of lots of treats!