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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Five-Minute Film Festival: Happy Halloween!

It's late October, and kids' minds are turning to costuming and candy, marauding and merriment -- yes, this is Halloween time! While parents get mired in guilt over fair-trade candy and childhood obesity issues and some schools ban Halloween celebrations altogether, many teachers take advantage of the excitement in the crisp autumn air and brew up some activities related to All Hallow's Eve.

Whatever your thoughts are on Halloween, it's a time of rich history and cultural traditions. People around the world are celebrating some variation on the theme at the end of October and in early November, from Samhain to Dia de Los Muertos. I've put together a list of video treats and tricks to delight you and your students.

Video Playlist: Halloween Time

Keep watching the player below to see the rest of the playlist, or view it on YouTube.

  1. Oozing Pumpkin - Sick Science! (01:04)

    First off, the creepy, oozy, icky, freaky science possibilities are endless. Want to make fake blood? Green slime? The ever-wonderful Steve Spangler Science gives us a full roster of projects on the Sick Science Halloween video playlist. Learn more about the oozing pumpkin experiment here.

  2. History of the Holidays: Halloween (03:30)

    From the Celts to candy: the History Channel explores where modern-day Halloween traditions came from. See all of the resources around Halloween from the History Channel, including more videos, articles, and infographics; and here are writing prompts for this video from TeachHub.

  3. Diagnosing a Zombie - Tim Verstynen & Bradley Voytek (03:47)

    What do we know about the neuroscience of zombies? Lots, thanks to brain scientists Tim Verstynen & Bradley Voytek (also board members of the, ahem, Zombie Research Society). Learn how to diagnose a zombie in this video and in part two, and see the full lesson over on TED-Ed.

  4. Dia de los Muertos: Young People's Ofrenda (03:43)

    Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is another wonderful seasonal tradition, from Mexico. Here, a museum in Minneapolis works with students to create "ofrendas," or little altars, to honor their loved ones. Another common way to celebrate Dia de los Muertos is with a procession.

  5. The Vampire in Literature and Film (04.47)

    Why is the vampire myth one of the most persistent and richly explored, even across cultures? Professor Sue Weaver Schopf attempts to unpack the allure of the vampire in an online course on vampires (at Harvard!). Check out the course's website and the first lecture video. Fangtastic!

  6. "Halloween" by Kay Lande and Wade Denning (02:54)

    I stumbled upon this one and was captivated. It's a stop-motion video for a vintage children's Halloween song from 1969, shot entirely on an iPhone with the Hipstamatic app. Learn more on filmmaker Jason Willis' website.

  7. Grandview Teachers Thriller Flash Mob (02:22)

    Want to "thrill" your students this Halloween? How about a Thriller flash mob? To help you get started, Thrill the World Los Angeles offers their amazingly comprehensive "Learn the Dance" page, offering a PDF flowchart, video tutorials, tips, scripts, and more.

  8. History Channel: Salem Witch Trials (01:27)

    This lovingly chalk-animated video is a great kickoff for any unit on the Salem Witch Trials. A few teaching resources to check out: lessons plans from TeachingHistory.org and the National Teacher Training Institute, and interactive adventures from Discovery Education and National Geographic.

  9. Five Little Pumpkins (00:58)

    I couldn't resist this disarmingly cute little girl chanting the classic rhyme, complete with popsicle stick props. I also found an animated version, mapped to the standards in English Language Arts for kindergarten and first grade, no less.

  10. The Trailer for the Frankenstein Project (06:53)

    Mr. Russo is an enterprising teacher in Medina, Ohio who designs a filmmaking project for his seventh grade language arts students every year. This is an excerpt from the "trailer" that introduced his Frankenstein project in 2010. See more about it and get links to the six final student films here.

More Resources for Halloween Teaching and Learning

With a little craftiness, you can harness all that ghoulish energy and get your kids engaged in all kinds of Halloween activities that relate to core content, as well as a few that are just for fun. I've collected some roundup pages with lesson plans, projects, and other resources.

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