November 3, 2022

Spooks + STEAM for Halloween

Last year, elementary school students and staff were tasked with how to best honor the school’s much-anticipated Halloween celebrations during a time when campus was closed to parents. As a group, they decided on Halloween booths, designed and built almost entirely by 6th grade students. The spooky set-ups and carnival-like experiences were so well-received, they are now a widely-anticipated Halloween staple. From inception to completion, these booths challenge the 6th graders to imagine, problem-solve, and engineer unique and interactive experiences that appeal to our Kinder through 5th grade students.

Shane Finch, Associate Technology Instructor, has guided this project since it began in 2021. “The students start with a problem they must solve: How can we create a booth that is entertaining and engaging and appropriate for K-5?” Once they are established in groups of three to four and assigned an adult supervisor, project research begins. The groups independently devise questions for the younger grades that will help them to narrow down their ideas: “What are things the kids might be interested in? How can we enhance this idea? Is this too scary, or not scary enough?” The students also have the option to reach out to a selected group of “experts.” In one case, a team wanted to do a ball-throwing activity but struggled with how to approach it fairly, given the K-5 age gap. Seeking help, they reached out to PE teachers and resolved the issue by marking lines on the ground for each grade level. Other experts include the maintenance team, the school nurse, and principal Denise Ross. “Each group ends up with their own unique experience,” Shane says.

The booths vary widely in type, from Halloween trivia and a haunted escape room to pumpkin decorating and spooky slime, but each one is a combination of science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematical principles. Josephine ‘29, Mika ‘29, and Lila ‘29 are bringing spells to life with a wand-making experience that combines hands-on art and wizardry. “We made a wand-making and magic booth where the K-5th graders could make a wand using chopsticks. Then they use the SPELL SHEET and wave their wand at the spider, and we levitate it using fishing wire and then lower the spider,” says Josephine. The group received enthusiastic reactions to their imaginative set-up. 

It is a great opportunity for STEAM related activities because it is a time of year where creativity is heavily encouraged.

Shane Finch

There was a collective excitement amongst all of the 6th graders to watch the younger grades finally experience these spooky collaborations. Alice ‘29, Charlotte ‘29 and Abigail ‘29 have been hard at work on a potion-making station and chemistry show. Part science experiment, part art project, the booth is a chance for K-5th graders to gather for color-mixing magic, complete with beads, Orbeez, food coloring, and water. Booth-goers decorate their own label, creatively name their concoction, and shake up ingredients in a take-home vial. “We also have a color-changing experiment that only Charlotte, Alice, and I will be making. It is a show for the kids to watch. It’s amazing,” Abigail adds, describing the chemistry experiment her team will carry out using a PH indicator. “I am most looking forward to seeing all the smiling faces of students once they have a fun new potion,” says Charlotte. 

Sixth grader Ollie ‘29 describes his group’s spooky maze—a fright-filled, immersive experience in the math classroom. Visitors must find their way around thick cobwebs and dark cardboard walls, crawl through boxes, and avoid 6th graders dressed as brain-eating zombies. Diana Sussman, math teacher and group supervisor explains that each group member plays an important role. “Oscar acts as their tour guide, leading them toward the scariest parts of the maze. Luke plays the part of the scary zombie looking for brains to eat, and Ollie is definitely our greatest asset when it comes to jumping out of the darkness to terrify our visitors. Cooper mans the door, explaining the ‘rules’ and wishing the kids luck through the spooky maze.”

With the 6th grade class in charge, these Halloween booths are challenging students to think critically, organize, and be deliberate in their decision-making. Shane says that design-thinking plays a critical role in the entire experience. “The children have to really think ahead, do their research, and anticipate what might be appropriate and engaging for the younger grades.” He adds that the 6th graders’ strategic reasoning and innovative designs give the K-5th graders an exciting look into the future, when it will be their turn to take the lead. And Halloween is a perfect moment for experiential learning, too. “It is a great opportunity for STEAM related activities because it is a time of year where creativity is heavily encouraged. It’s a chance for multiple disciplines to be used in fun, student-led activities.”