For lots of us, the autumn season is the best time of year – cooler temps mean cozier indoor days with blankets and hot apple cider as well as fresh, crisp outdoor fun. Autumn also brings October – and Halloween! While you’re getting festive at home with your porch pumpkins and telephone pole witches and scary movies, why not get your students gung-ho for ghouls too – by using STEM?
There are plenty of ways to incorporate this season’s fun with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), but let’s zero in on transforming STEM into STREAM for early-learning kiddos with reading! Try giving your learners a thematically relevant book and following it up with a STEM activity.
This can look differently to each situation, depending on the age and reading level of your students. You could send the book home with them, have them read individually or with partners during a class period, or read directly to them at story time. If you and your students are in a virtual situation, you could even send a YouTube link of someone reading the book; videos like this sometimes feature the author and even the book’s illustrations.
No matter how the story gets told, follow it up with a neat STEM activity so students can touch on a bunch of cross-curricular points with one story as the focal point! Here are several ideas to get your brain juices flowing.
- Creepy Carrots! by Aaron Reynolds
In this story, a rabbit fears his favorite snack is out to get him! Use his journey to teach about how plants grow and ways to build garden enclosures to protect the plants (or yourself!).
- Frankenslime by Joy Keller
This children’s story is a cute combination of Frankenstein and The Blob featuring a young female scientist, and it even includes a few of her best slime recipes. Try them out with your students – can you figure out the secret ingredient for bringing the slime to life?
- Monster Trouble! by Lane Fredrickson
This picture book spins the tale of Winifred Schnitzel, a girl who’s unafraid of the monsters sneaking into her house, but they refuse to let her sleep. Spoiler alert: Turns out the most effective way to keep the monsters at bay is with love and affection! You and your students could use the tale as an opportunity to brainstorm different monster deterrents as well as explore social-emotional learning.
- Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson
This author of the The Gruffalo, another great children’s monster book, tells the story of a witch who winds up giving a ride to all her animal friends – but her broom quickly runs out of space. Can your students brainstorm ways that could have helped her on her journey?
- The Dark by Lemony Snicket
As someone who read A Series of Unfortunate Events as a kid, I’ve devoured any Lemony Snicket story I could get my hands on since then. This book for younger audiences tells the tale of how Laszlo stops being afraid of the dark, and it can help children learn to face their own fear. A solid STEM follow-up could be learning about light and energy. How can students make their own night light or glow stick?
- Give Me Back My Bones! by Kim Norman
Not only does this story about a skeleton in search of his bones at sea teach about the skeletal system, but it’s also got creative rhyme schemes and use of language. Use it as a jumping-off point for teaching biology, or take a stab at building structures out of Q-tips!
Another way to celebrate the Halloween season is to have a costume day with a twist. Have students choose a book, such as one of many by Andrea Beaty, in which the main character has a STEM/STREAM connection. Children could learn about career options or just about the STEM field in general while they stretch their imagination and get into character!
Try out a few of these Halloween Pitsco twists!
- Candy corn bridges – Toothpick Bridges
- Mini punkin chunkin with gourds or candy corn pumpkins – Catapults or Trebuchets
- Pumpkin smash – Egg Drop
- Create costumes – Bee-Bot®, Fable, or KUBO
However you prepare for a kid-friendly spooky season, I hope you have a fun and safe holiday!
Additional autumn/Halloween reads:
- “The Science Behind Fall: How and Why Leaves Change Colors”
- “Fantastic fall pumpkin activities”
- “Fall in the classroom: Your pick of seasonal celebrations and activities”
- “The science behind Hollywood’s spooky special effects”