Use Halloween to Teach Students these 3 Big Concepts
It’s almost Halloween, and kids everywhere are excited about the promise of candy and creepy costumes. And while sugar highs and costumed revelry don’t scream “redeeming values,” there’s more depth to the holiday than meets the eye. Here are some valuable concepts you can teach using Halloween as a platform!
The Course and Value of Tradition
Kids are surrounded by tradition. From Christmas Day to the burger they ate last night, many of the constants in kids’ lives are steeped in history. The thing is, they’re not typically encouraged to do much critical thinking on the subject. To remedy this, try delving into Halloween’s interesting past with your class!
Students will be fascinated to learn that Halloween is thought to have originated 2000 years ago with Samhain, an ancient Celtic holiday. This seasonal festival marked the start of the dark, cold winter. Participants lit bonfires and wore costumes in an effort to ward off evil spirits. In the 8th century, November 1st was deemed All Saints’ Day by the Pope Gregory IV. Over time, All Saints’ Eve became known as All Hallow’s Eve, which eventually became Halloween. There is so much fascinating history to share with your students on the subject.
Once you’ve broken down the influences of modern Halloween, encourage your students to think of other holidays in terms of tradition. Then ask them to consider other traditions they may take for granted in their life. It can be something as big as why we say “bless you” after someone sneezes, or something as personal as the reason their family eats bacon every Sunday!
A Crash Course in Basic Nutrition
Now, Halloween and nutrition might seem to be as incompatible as they come. But the overabundance of sugar that comes with the season is actually a perfect opportunity to delve into the effects of food on our bodies.
We’re not saying you should decry candy to your students—that likely wouldn’t go over well. Instead, try starting with a simple lesson on the different varieties of sugar. First, give a brief overview of why we need sugar. Then, bring in a few different types of candy (chocolate, taffy, gummies, etc.) into the classroom, as well as some sources of natural sugar (e.g. fruit, honey, granola bars).
Distribute the goods, then ask for your students’ help in identifying different sugars in the candy. Let them know that sugar is found under many names: dextrose, corn syrup, evaporated cane juice, invert sugar, etc. Then, talk about the natural sugars present in fruit and other non-processed goods. If you bring enough supplies, you can even make a game out of sampling the different foods to see if students can taste a difference between the different sugars.
Again, you don’t have to disparage sugar and processed foods to get your point across. This exercise can help make kids more conscious of the ingredients in their food, which is a huge victory in and of itself. A simple lesson on sugars can encourage a lifelong habit of nutritional awareness.
The Nuances of Cultural Respect and Appropriateness
The Halloween season can be a trying time for political correctness. Especially in recent years, a heavy emphasis has been placed on avoiding cultural stereotypes and offensive generalizations. There is a fine line between celebrating a culture and mocking it, and there’s no better time to address this than Halloween.
When it comes to cultural respect, knowledge is power. In many cases, an inappropriate costume is more defined by the person wearing it than the apparel itself. Encourage your students to do some investigation on their costume options before deciding on one. While it’s true that many students will opt to dress as Marvel superheroes, Pokémon, or their favorite television character, the subject of cultural respect is an important one to broach.
See? There’s plenty of substantial topics to explore around Halloween time. Teachers, what do you teach during this festive time of year? Let us know on Facebook or in the comments below! And don’t forget to follow ECR4Kids on Facebook, Pinterest, or our blog via email for more of these posts!