I've heard some recent discussions about parental concerns over Halloween: Some families do not celebrate Halloween because of competing religious beliefs; others consider Halloween to be too scary for young children; still others cite concerns over other issues (i.e. it being a "pagan" holiday).
I'm curious how teachers and administrators are dealing with this. How can we take advantage of this potentially engaging learning opportunity while respecting the very valid concerns of parents?
I think a lot of the concerns you mentioned are valid and should be carefully considered. However, there are many related topics that you can discuss with children of all ages to take advantage of the season and time of year. Possible topics include candy, harvest, pumpkins and jack-o'-lanterns, giving, sharing, etc.
Wonderopolis offers a variety of related Wonders of the Day that parents and educators can use to engage children in Halloween-related topics. Here are a couple to check out:
Hope that helps!
Each of our 3rd grade students "adopts" a baby pumpkin. In math, we weigh in grams, measure circumference, describe color, shape, features, etc. - and draw a picture of the pumpkin - all recorded in a pamphlet. Next, each pumpkin gets to dress in character from the student's favorite book. This is done as homework. The pumpkin usually represents the head of the book character. Hair might be added, or a beard, a hat, a scarf, earrings, etc. The student records the hair and eye color, name of the book, name of the character, and a favorite quote from the book. We then have a pumpkin parade (which coincides with Halloween). At each student's desk, their baby pumpkin is displayed in character, along with a copy of the book, and their pamphlet with all of the recorded data. The 3rd grade classes all tour each others' rooms to see the displays.
Wow, Fran, that's quite the interdisciplinary project! You've got math, literature, writing, science, art, and seasonality all incorporated there.
The only thing I can think to add would be a social studies angle, perhaps about the history of the cultivation of the pumpkin, or where it grows and is eaten around the world. But of course, that's just the geographer in me talking.
Thanks for sharing your story, I hope others can benefit from it as much as I have!
This is my first Halloween living outside the US. Here in Australia, people are fascinated by Halloween and ask me many questions. Halloween is slowly catching on here and kids LOVE to get dresses up. The US Embassy has a huge Halloween party and every American kid (there are 250 kids assigned to the US Embassy) can invite one friend. It is a hot ticket if you are lucky to score a ticket to the US Embassy on Halloween. On this note, Halloween is truly an American tradition, most of us just celebrate it for the joy of our kids being able to dress up, get candy and have fun. What if we emphasize that Halloween isn’t just about scary ghost or a “pagan” holiday, but it is about making family memories and celebrating American traditions.
That's a unique angle on it, thanks from sharing a perspective from downunder! I can certainly relate to your experience--I studied abroad in Australia from July-November of 2005, and I was tickled by the Aussie's fascination with Halloween (that and peanut butter, I could make a lot of money selling Reeses in Australia!). You're right that we can sometimes forget about the fact that this is a distinctly American holiday, and an important part of family and community traditions.
I like your approach to the subject, and to approach all holidays from a bit of a cross-cultural, anthropological slant. Another experience I had while in Australia was to celebrate "Christmas in July." Because of Australia's location in the Southern Hemisphere, Christmas falls in their summer. So, by celebrating in July, they place the holiday within their winter, as is the tradition to celebrate in Western Europe and North America. This practice is certainly a reflection of Australia's European colonial routes. It's also a bit of their version of Halloween, as they dress up in all kinds of festive holiday gear. A great tradition and an interesting educational topic.
Thanks again for sharing your thoughts.
Keep an eye out on Monday for a new Wonder of the Day about trick-or-treating. It's actually this part of Halloween that's an American creation...although it has its roots in established traditions from other countries from long ago.
The other aspects of the Halloween holiday have evolved over time from centuries-old traditions from other countries. For history on the jack-o'-lantern, for example, check out Wonder of the Day #373: What Is a Jack-O'-Lantern?!
I had a lengthy discussion with my 6th grade special ed resource room students yesterday about Halloween safety. We find that pre-during-and post Halloween some of our students get really hyper and tend to use the holiday as an excuse to get involved in bad behavior activities. It's so bad in this area that some of our parents will not send their kids to school on Halloween Monday, fearing for their child's safety. Many of our teachers discussed Halloween safety because we know that there is the potential for a lot of problems during this time. We had a Halloween party after school yesterday and encouraged our students to celebrate the holiday in a safe setting at school. My resource room students told stories of friends being pelted by eggs last year, of kids being roughed up on the streets while trick or treating so at our school we spend a good amount of time talking about staying safe on Halloween. I even feel that we should post Halloween safety tips on our district site --maybe we will in the future.
Thanks for your comment. You bring up an issue not previously discussed in this forum, and I'm so glad you did.
Safety is a matter of serious concern on Halloween! From dark streets to running children to predatory individuals, there are many dangers to consider when trick-or-treating. And that includes teenagers, who once they outgrow the more innocent activities of youth can seize on Halloween as an opportunity for vandalism and for picking on their younger siblings and classmates.
It's great that you are being proactive about these issues and talking directly to some of the kids most likely to be tempted into questionable activities. Showing how Halloween can still be fun without being dangerous, by hosting parties and designing costumes and haunted houses, or even by doing a controlled science experiment involving smashing eggs or pumpkins in a safe setting, is a good approach to channel students' high energy into more productive activities.
Thanks again for bringing these important issues to light. Have a Happy Halloween!
Thinkfinity offers a special feature on Halloween with many lesson ideas. There is also another discussion in the Community related to studying or celebrating Halloween--How can you celebrate or study Halloween and other similar occasions in the classroom, like the Mexican Day of the Dead?
A search of Thinkfinity provides 21 lessons related to Halloween. They cover a variety of ideas including cultural traditions, literary selections, decorating secrets from the theater, listening activities, student interactives, and so much more.
A fun activity from ReadWriteThink is the Pumpkin Carving Sequencer for grades K-2.
You raise some valid concerns in your question, but I think Thinkfinity offers some good lesson ideas to make this holiday an educational experience.
As an administrator, Halloween was just another day at school today. Of course, there were a few students that dressed mildly with face make-up and I saw one student with a mask. But, to respect the religious beliefs and opinions of others, Halloween is a normal day.