It’s hard not to notice that Halloween is near.
You can’t go anywhere without seeing pumpkins, Halloween decorations, and candy.
Why not use the holiday to your advantage?
I’ve gathered some of the best ideas for Halloween science I could find and put them all in one place. Whether you want to find a way to use up all of the Halloween candy (without your kids ingesting extra sugar), experiment with dry ice, find a use for your pumpkin(s), or just have some spooky science fun, I’ve got you covered!
I’ve even listed them by category so you can quickly find what you’re looking for.
It’s hard to get through this time of year without candy coming into the house. Even if your kids don’t trick-or-treat, you probably buy candy to pass out to the neighborhood children. But after Halloween, what should you do with the leftovers? Sure, you could eat it. But you could also use the leftover candy to do some cool candy science.
Edible Rock Cycle
You can use soft candies (like Starburst) to represent the three main types of rocks: igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic. Learn how in this post from Lemon Lime Adventures. We did a variation of this activity when my boys first learned about the rock cycle and it was a big hit!
Take the idea even further by having your kids demonstrate how each type of edible rock can be turned into the other types. For instance, how can an igneous rock be turned into a sedimentary rock? How can a sedimentary rock be turned into a metamorphic rock? With this hands-on activity, they will understand how the rock cycle truly is a cycle, and that each type of rock can turn any of the other rock types.
Make a Candy DNA Model
DNA is fascinating, but it can be hard for students to visualize. That’s why models come in handy! After making this DNA model using the directions in this post from Science Sparks, your kids will have a much better understanding of the structure of DNA and how DNA base-pairing works. There’s so much great information packed in this post!
Make Dancing Gummy Worms
This candy science activity is a variation of the popular baking soda and vinegar experiment. When your kids are making their dancing worms, they’re actually exploring the chemistry of acids and bases. Learn how to do this activity in this post from the Learning Resources Blog.
Growing Gummy Bears
Do your kids like gummy bears? They’re typically not the first to get eaten from the Halloween stash. They are, however, fantastic for studying osmosis. Osmosis is the movement of water (or some other solvent) across a semi-permeable membrane. By placing gummy bears in different liquids (such as tap water, salt water, vinegar, etc.), you can watch the gummy bears grow (as liquid enters the bears) or shrink (as the bear dehydrates). You can learn how to do this fun activity in this blog post from How to Homeschool.
Candy Corn Catapult
Candy corn: you either love it or you hate it. No matter what camp you or your kids are in, you can have fun designing a candy corn catapult with items you likely already have on hand. Kids will unknowingly explore physics as they experiment to find the catapult design that launches their candy the farthest. Find the details in this post from Frugal Fun for Boys and Girls.
Building Challenge Using Candy
Here’s a great way to get your kids thinking and creating! Have them see what structures they can create using just candy and toothpicks. In this post from Lemon Lime Adventures they build with candy pumpkins, and make structures including towers and a witch’s hat. If you don’t have candy pumpkins, this activity can be done with many different types of soft candies.
Using Peeps to Find the Speed of Light
I remember when Peeps were only available at Easter. Not anymore! These days you can find Peeps for every holiday. While I know some like the taste of Peeps, I think they’re better used for science experiments.
This video is incredible! Not only does the creator demonstrate how to use Peeps and a microwave to calculate the speed of light, but he also uses marshmallows and Peeps to give a brief history of how scientists originally measured the speed of light. I plan to do this with my online physics students this year! Check it out here:
Exploding Peep Geyser
If you find yourself with more Peeps, you can create an exploding Peep geyser. Looks like things could get messy, but I’m sure the kids will love it! Learn more in this post at Housing a Forest.
Each Halloween, my sons would dump out all of their trick-or-treating candy stash on the floor and sort their candy by type. I thought it was just something they did, until friends told me that their kids did this too. Why not take an activity your kids will do anyway and turn it into a math lesson? The folks at Let’s Lasso the Moon have even created a free printable that your kids can use to log how many of each candy type they scored. In a variation of this theme, kids can dump out their packs of candy (like Sweet Tarts, Skittles, M&M’s, etc.) and count how many of each color they have. They can then create a simple graph with their results. Learn more in this post from Mama Papa Bubba.
Science with Dry Ice
Dry ice is fun, no matter the season! Did you know that you can find dry ice all year long? It’s true! Many grocery stores carry it, which makes it easy to experiment with dry ice whenever the mood strikes.
Dry ice is pretty cool. Do you know what it’s made of?
Dry ice is actually the solid form of carbon dioxide (the stuff that we exhale and plants use for photosynthesis). The “smoke” we see when dry ice is placed at room temperature is actually not smoke at all but the gaseous form of carbon dioxide. Temperatures must remain low for dry ice to remain a solid. At temperatures above the freezing point of dry ice, it will transition directly from the solid form (dry ice) to the gaseous form (carbon dioxide gas), completely skipping over the liquid form. This process of changing state from solid to gas is called sublimation, and it’s a fun topic to explore when your students are learning about the phases of matter.
Here are some ideas to explore dry ice science this Halloween.
Ghost Bubbles, Burping Dry Ice, and Making a Bubbly Potion
This blog post from My Kids Adventures shares three of my favorite experiments with dry ice. As your students create “burping” dry ice, ghost (or boo) bubbles, and make a bubbling potion, you can encourage them to think about the changes that are happening at the molecular level as the dry ice changes from solid to gas. Kids of all ages love these experiments! I’ve even done this experiments in my high school chemistry classes!
Make Dry Ice Rootbeer
An interesting thing happens when you allow dry ice to melt (turn from solid to gas) in liquid. Some of the carbon dioxide gas remains in the liquid and carbonates it. You can use this phenomenon to your advantage by making your own rootbeer using dry ice. Learn how in this post from Animal Jam Academy.
Don’t like rootbeer? Try using dry ice to carbonate your favorite fruit juice instead.
Who knew there were so many fun things to do with pumpkins?
Make Pumpkin Guts Slime
When you’re carving your pumpkin to create a jack-o-lantern, save the pumpkin guts to make pumpkin guts slime. Learn how in this post from Hip2Save.
Extract Pumpkin DNA
Like all living things, pumpkin contains DNA within each cell. It’s easy to extract pumpkin DNA. You likely have everything you’ll need to do this experiment already (with the possible exception of rubbing alcohol). Find out how here: Extract Pumpkin DNA
Make Pumpkin Oobleck
I’ve blogged about oobleck before. Oobleck is a non-Newtonian fluid that simultaneously has properties of a solid and liquid. Most oobleck recipes are made with only cornstarch and water. This recipe from Inspiration Laboratories adds pumpkin (left from carving a jack-o-lantern) to add a bit of color and scent to the mixture.
Use Rubber Bands to Explode a Pumpkin
If you have a pumpkin around that you don’t plan to carve (or if you can pick one up at deep discount at the store), this is a fantastic experiment. Have kids use the scientific method and form a hypothesis to answer the question: how many rubber bands does it take to explode a pumpkin? Then have them test their hypothesis.
Elephant Toothpaste Jack-o-lantern
What do you do with your jack-o-lantern when Halloween is over? Before you toss it in the trash, how about using it to do a little chemistry with catalysts? You can mix a batch of elephant toothpaste inside your jack-o-lantern. As the chemical reaction occurs, the fun foam will shoot out of the holes you’ve carved in your pumpkin. Get the details in this post from Hello Wonderful, and watch a video of what you can expect here:
Use a Pumpkin to Investigate Microscopic Life
Before you pitch your jack-o-lantern or pumpkin in the trash, you can use it to investigate microscopic life. How? In this post from Home Science Tools (referral link*), learn how you can use a pumpkin as a petri dish to discover which location in your house is host to the most mold (a fungus).
You can also leave your pumpkin or jack-o-lantern on your porch, but document the process as it rots. In this neat post from Kids Activities.com, you can see how you can turn the decomposition process into a learning experience. It’s cool to see how much change happens each day!
Spooky Spider Science
Did you know that you can use a flashlight to find the spiders hiding in your yard? The light from your flashlight will reflect off the eyes of the spiders in your lawn (similar to what happens with the eyes of cats, raccoons, and deer).
Static Electricity Ghosts
Amaze your kids with your ability to move paper ghosts without even touching them. The secret? Static electricity. It’s easy to do: all you need is some tissue, scissors, a balloon, and some tape. Learn more in this fun post from The Homeschool Scientist.
If you’ve got a raw egg to spare, you’ll want to try your hand at making ghost eggs. In this variation of the “naked egg” experiment, you can add tonic water to your deshelled egg to make your naked egg glow in the dark. How fun this this? Learn more in this post from Growing a Jeweled Rose.
Flying Tea Bag Ghosts
I love this idea from Playdough to Plato for creating flying ghosts from tea bags. When your kid wonders why the ghost flies, you can help them understand about the changes in matter that occur when heat is applied to matter.
I hope you take the time to have some fun with these Halloween Science activities. If you do one (or all) of them, please come back and let us know how it goes!
If you’re looking for fun, engaging high school science classes with opportunities for hands-on exploration, check out the courses I have to offer here: High School Science Courses Taught by Dr. Kristin Moon Currently I offer high school biology, chemistry, physics, and anatomy and physiology,
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