KS3 (11-14)

Spooky Science

With Halloween falling at the end of half-term week this year a spooky science lesson is a great way of celebrating the end of (half) term or the beginning of a new one.

Teaching idea

I have found lots of great ideas from the web but my favourite collection is from Arbour Scientific (weblink below) and showcases a whole array of spooky, slimy and scary science experiments for a haunted laboratory.  This sounds like a great idea and would have been something that I would have loved to set up myself when teaching.  However for something a little less ambitious I have picked the idea that I think you could best incorporate into any lesson on light and reflection whether it falls around Halloween or not.

Pepper’s ghost is a famous illusion that was first used in Victorian theatres but can still be seen scaring people today in haunted houses and theme parks.  The video above shows the illusion set up in someone’s house and showing this would make a great starter to show the students to get them spooked.  You could then ask them how it was done (or is it a real ghost they are witnessing?).

You can also demonstrate this much simpler version using candles and a glass. The video below shows how I set it up in my kitchen.

Place one candle in an empty glass behind a sheet of glass or Perspex. Use blu-tack to stick it down into the glass.  Then place another identical candle the other side of the glass and light it.  You will have to move the lit candle around until an image of the flame can be seen on the unlit candle.  You can then pour water into the glass to complete the illusion and show that the candle will stay lit underwater.  If you don’t want to give the game away, you can shield the lit candle from the audience.

The students can then be asked to set up their own version using empty CD cases and nightlights which they use to attempt to explain how the trick works.  The idea here is to let the students explore without giving them any hints and see what they can come up with.  They can draw diagrams to help them explain and discussion should be encouraged.

Then, after hearing their ideas, you can help them to develop a final explanation by sharing with them the ray diagrams from the Naked Scientists website.

For a Halloween-based biology lesson on adaptation why not use Snapshot Science’s Vampire Biology lesson idea and resource?

Over to you…

Please add a comment of you have any ideas for Halloween (or Bonfire Night) lessons or have set up your own haunted laboratory. I would love to hear from you – don’t be scared!


Great resource for other Halloween science activities.

The Naked Scientists website – scroll down for ray diagrams to explain how the Pepper’s ghost illusion works

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