by Julie Herrera
One of my favorite October STEM projects is making Haunted Houses. I have done this for the last 3 years with our entire school. This Halloween project can also work with a class, small group, or as an independent project.
We make 5 creative spooky haunted houses, one for each day of the week. I assign a day of the week and a job to each class. The whole school, each house would have a Kindergarten, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade class. It doesn’t always work out that way, so I have to adjust jobs. Nothing is so difficult that it can’t completed by another grade.
Yay! for Kindergarten STEM Jobs: Engineers/ Architects/ Planning Commission
Since Kindergarteners are new to STEM, I make them the Planning Commission. I put a large number of cardboard boxes and tubes on the floor and let them decide what the structure will look like. Nothing glued or taped together, only stacked. They have to work together and agree on their final plan. Then I take a picture and print it so the rest of their team will know what their house should look like in the end. I am always amazed at how different each house looks. The boxes in this house are now set aside and labeled with the day, so they are not used again.
1st Grade STEM Jobs: Painters/ Artists
1st grade gets to paint everything. My second year, I decided to use 5 colors, one for each day, and let one student draw what color their house will be. This helps keep the boxes separate as the week goes on and boxes are everywhere. Storage is always an issue when doing large STEM projects. I give everyone time to paint parts of the house and switch out students so everyone gets a chance to take part. We talk about how a haunted house looks, old and run down, so perfection is not what we are going for.
Now it is time to put the house together.
2nd Grade: Construction Team/ Builders
2nd graders use the materials to construct the house. Duct tape, hot glue (with adult supervision), and Make Do screws are my top 3. They have to figure out the best way to get it all together and sturdy enough to stay together. They work in small groups, again switching out so everyone gets a turn.
3rd Grade Jobs: Details/ Designers
3rd grade gets to add the details. By this time, the house has taken on a “feel”. We talk about what it looks like to them. Does it remind them of anything? We have made old castles, closed factories, run down churches, etc. This helps to decide the details that need to add. They decide where windows and doors should be and I cut them out with an Exacto knife, to be safe. Added details include steps, fences, animals, ghosts, tombstones, spiderwebs, etc. They can come up with much better ideas than me.
The house is now built and decorated, so it is time to add some lights.
4th Grade Jobs: Lights/Electricians
4th grade uses some simple circuits, cooper tape and a battery, to add this detail. They have to show me they know what to do and how it works before actually working on the house. We have Snap Circuits which are great to get them started. After they have worked with them for a while, they can start using the cooper tape. It is a little more challenging and takes some practice. I always have a group that will stick with it and they are the ones that get to work on the house. They decide where the lights should be and what color lights.
5th Grade Jobs: Sound Effects/Tech Support
5th grade is fun because they get to add sound effects. Again, with this job they have to show me they know what they are doing. We start by talking about what sounds would we hear at a haunted house. On Chromebooks and iPads, we practice recording sounds. We also have some littleBits that are great to use for this. Snap Circuits have some sound effects too. And again, the students who want to keep going can then start working as a team on adding sounds to the house. They decide what sounds and how they will work.
In the end, we have 5 houses that everyone is so proud of. I display them in the hallway with the class names who worked on them, so everyone can enjoy. There are always lots “Oooohs” and “Aaahs!” We have a Fall Festival and we auction the houses off so one lucky student gets to take it home.
This is a fun, collaborative project that gets students excited about lots of STEM areas.