Friday, 8 June 2012

Should schools ban Hallowe'en parties?

What are some of your favorite memories of Autumn when you were attending public school? If you're like many people, you'll mention the class Halloween party near the top of the list. Everyone enjoyed it, and it was good for the children for many reasons. Here are a few which spring to mind:

There may have been new children who entered the school during the summer. This was one of the first opportunities for them to socialize for an afternoon with their classmates, without the specter of schoolwork looming in the background.

Some children exercised imagination and creativity in coming up with original costumes. Those who didn't care to, could just throw an old sheet over their heads and be ghosts. No one was excluded from the excitement.

Often the party included a walk around the neighborhood in costume. The teacher could review all the safety rules beforehand to a motivated class, because everyone was anxious to leave the confines of the school yard and show off. The neighbors liked it too. They would sit on their porches and smile and wave as the Halloween parade passed.

The upcoming party provided an opportunity for lessons on nutrition and the best choices for healthy snacks. Everyone knew there would be lots of candy around at the party, but what other treats would be better choices for snacks at other times of the year?

Depending on the grade level, the teacher might use the party as a springboard to introduce a unit of study on the digestive system. What happens to the candy after you swallow it?

The walk around the neighborhood provided the children with an opportunity to notice signs of Fall: colored leaves falling, gardens being readied for Winter, birds flying south, and cooler weather, among other things. These observations provided the bases for Science classes in the following days.

The party and Halloween itself provided motivation for enthusiastic literature appreciation. Everyone loved spooky tales throughout the month of October. The anticipation of a class party on the last day of the month added to atmosphere of expectation. From "Casper the Friendly Ghost" to "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow", every scary library book was signed out as quickly as it was returned during October.

The party and the neighborhood parade required parent volunteers to ensure safety and to help with supervision of the children. It was often the first chance for teacher and parents to meet on an informal basis, certainly a less stressful occasion than at the first report card interview.

School offers few occasions that the children will remember in later years as just plain fun. Halloween parties are just such celebrations and certainly should not be banned. The students needn't be taught about the darker traditions surrounding the occasion, they wouldn't care anyway. To them, October thirty-first means costumes, treats, a party with friends, escaping the school yard and exploring the neighborhood. They should not be deprived of this special day before the long, dull days of winter arrive.

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