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The countdown to Hallowe’en is on!  Hallowe’en activities are by far the most fun to plan. Costumes, icky experiments, ghoulish crafts, spooky activities and of course candy!  Whether you are a kid or a kid at heart, there is something special about Hallowe’en.

The spirit of Hallowe'en runs in our blood at the Peterborough Museum, going all the way back to the 1990's when staff would transform the exhibit into a haunted gallery.  Enjoy this throwback video from 1993 covering one of these witchy events!  Watch closely to see our curator Kim, and what the reporter refers to as the "diabolical carrot."   

Artifact of a doll on display during Scaritage Exhibit

Moreover,  who could forget our 2015 exhibit, Scaritage-Dare You To Look? With hair-raising artifacts on display including creepy dolls and questionable medical devices, visitors left feeling thrillingly unsettled. Over the years we've also had a number of children's registered programs including "Spooktacular Art", "Mad Scientist Lab" and "Hocus Pocus Party of the Hill." 

To kick off October 2021, we brought back one of of our favourite programs - Kids Only Discovery After Dark! This Saturday evening program runs once a month and is always full of mischief and spooky fun. Each month is a new theme and this month we choose Nocturnal Animals. There is something fascinating about night creatures and their big, glowing eyes that captivates children. Although it's not your typical Hallowe'en theme, for us it had just enough spook without being too scary. 

For today’s blog I’m sharing all of the details of our Discovery After Dark - Nocturnal Animals program below. 

Colouring Sheets

As participants arrived they coloured a handout showing a variety of nocturnal animals.  Found on Pinterest, I often use colouring sheets as an easy activity for kids to complete as we are waiting for everyone to arrive and the program to start.

True and False Game

This was our first activity and works as a great ice breaker for the group. I would simply read out different statements regarding nocturnal animals, and kids would give me a thumbs up for true and a thumbs down for false. Another fun way to do this, is using ping pong paddles with one colour representing true and the opposite false. See some examples of true and false facts below:

  1. Nocturnal animals are creatures who are active at night.
    • True; these creatures sleep during the day and are active at night.
  2. All nocturnal animals are predators.
    • False; animals such as mice and hedgehogs are also nocturnal. 
  3. Animals that are active during the day are called diurnal.
    • True; humans and most animals are diurnal meaning they are active during the day and sleep at night.
  4. Many nocturnal animals have large pupils that can dilate to extremes.
    • True; this adaptation helps them see better at night.
  5. Nocturnal animals not only have excellent eyesight in the dark, but can also see bright colours.
    • False; in order to see so well at night nocturnal animals tend to have more rods (black and white vision) then cones (colour vision). 
  6. Bate "see" by echolocation.
    • True; in order to get a picture of their surroundings and find prey, bats emit a high-frequency sound that bounces back from objects in their area. This is called echolocation. 
  7. Bioluminescence refers to nocturnal animals with glowing eyes. 
    • False; bioluminescence is an amazing adaptation found in creatures who live in complete darkness in the bottom of the ocean. These creatures have a special chemical compound that causes them to glow brightly, ranging in colour from bright blue to bright red. This adaptation is used for hunting prey, confusing predators and communication danger to members of the same species. 

Echolocation Game

We played this game outdoors as a fun way to teach children how echolocation works. Echolocation describes how batsParticipants of discovery after dark on the playground are able to locate their prey in the night without using their eyesight.

This is how the game works:

1. You choose one participant to be the bat in the middle, and everyone else forms a circle around the bat. Make sure there is a good 7-10 feet between the “bat” and the circle

2. You blindfold the bat and you choose one person in the circle to be the “prey.”

3. The game starts with the bat saying “echo” and the prey having to repeat “echo” each time the bat says it.

4. The bat moves in the direction of the repeated echo in an attempt to find its prey. 

Of course the kids all want a chance to be the “bat” or the “prey" so we played a few times to allow everyone a turn. The bat usually found the prey very easily. To increase the difficulty, you could allow kids to choose a spot anywhere in the playing field, rather then making a circle.

Predator/ Prey Game 

This game demonstrates how quiet predators have to be to catch their prey! To start, you choose one participant to be the prey and they stand inside a hula hoop. Everyone else is a predator and should stand in a circle surrounding the prey. The goal of the game is for a predator to get their foot inside the hula hoop without being seen by the prey. If the prey spots a predator moving they have to return to their starting point.  We used bean bags to mark each predator’s starting point. 

Bat and Spider Crafts

A Discovery After Dark would not be complete without a craft! For this session, we made flying bats and had planned to make these neat aluminum foil spiders, but unfortunately ran out of time. Both are very easy, require few supplies and make very cute take-aways. 

Flashlight Scavenger Hunt Flashlight scavenger hunt in the gallery

Always the highlight of the program is a flashlight scavenger hunt through a pitch dark gallery! For this one, I printed off pictures of nocturnal animals and hid them through the exhibit. Each child had a clipboard, pencil and flashlight with an image of each animal they were looking for. On the count of 3, we set them loose to search for the animals by flashlight. Once completed, we collected all of the hidden animals and matched them up to their names, briefly sharing special adaptations that make them nocturnal. 

Bioluminescence Experiment

This experiment looks so cool and is perfect for showing children how bioluminescence works. Sadly, we ran out of time to conduct it but I will be keeping this gem in my back pocket for a later date. 

Essentially, you mix neon paint with baby oil and use a pipette to drop the colourful oil into the water. Since water and oil do not mix, it creates a beautiful visual of bioluminescent creatures in the ocean! To enhance the effect, you can use a black light. 

Our next Kids Only- Discovery After Dark is Saturday, November 6th with a theme of "Go Figure!" Check out our webpage for full registration details. 

Wishing everyone a safe and spook-tacular Hallowe'en! 

Virtually yours,