Take Your Students on a Curiosity Voyage this Halloween

The voyage begins with my spooktacular Halloween-themed door.

By: Professor Abigail Perdue

There are stranger things than using a Halloween-themed exercise to engage your students, particularly during this stressful point in the semester. After a weekend of binge-watching Season Two of the Netflix phenomenon, Stranger Things, I reconfigured my Halloween lesson to include items that every respectable professor needs to tame little monsters, brain-drained zombies, and every other ghoul in school:

  • Build suspense with an email inspired by Stranger Things or another Halloween favorite: I sent the following email to my students the day before our Halloween class:

Tomorrow we’re taking a “Curiosity Voyage.” Don’t forget to bring your oars — hard copies of your two cases. However, as you read them, especially the dissenting opinion in the appellate case, don’t get turned Upside Down by the various arguments regarding how to use statistical evidence in a disparate impact case. The way that statistics would be used is not particularly relevant to the Salon at this point (although the case mentions three primary approaches to using statistics, not Eight or Eleven.) It would be highly relevant if the Salon were already facing litigation, but here, we are in a counseling posture. (Trust me on this; friends don’t lie.) Use your unique mental powers to focus primarily on each case’s implications, if any, for Memo Three. There’s nothing stranger than me asking you to bring your laptops to class tomorrow, but please do.[1] Bring your Bluebook, too. You’ll be doing an “eerie exercise” in honor of Halloween and one with a party. (Let’s hope it includes a zoomer and mage lest your mind get flayed!)

Frightfully yours,

Professor Perdue

  • Set the tone: Play Thriller, Monster Mash, or another popular Halloween hit as scared students file into the classroom.
  • Weave in a haunted house or other Halloween staple: This year, I gave my students the following clue: “Use your unmatched mental powers to find this hauntingly good case from the Empire State that involved a home buyer getting a real fright shortly after the purchase. Instead of calling the Ghostbusters, this petrified plaintiff went into state court to try to rescind the deal.” Then I sent students on a whirlwind research race! The first person to find the correct case — Stambovsky v. Ackley – received a bag of chocolate eyeballs — quite the coveted prize.
  • Inspire students to do their best: As students proceed to their next eerie exercise, remind them to “Be an 11, not a 10!”[2]
  • Encourage students to collaborate: Everyone knows that four Ghostbusters are better than one, especially in a Code Red! So to continue our “curiosity voyage,” I designed a timed in-class exercise that gave students an  opportunity to work in a four-person “party” to collaboratively analyze two cases that they had read for class and apply them to the facts of our prompt.[3] The learning objectives for the exercise included but were not limited to: (1) encouraging class preparedness; (2) honing critical reading, issue-spotting, and analytical skills; (3) providing an opportunity to practice collaborative lawyering, diplomacy, task delegation, citation, application of the law, and writing under tight time constraints; (4) cultivating stronger oral and written communication skills; and (5) encouraging effective time management. Have your students complete the exercise in class or give them until the “witching hour” to electronically submit it.

All in all, our eerie exercises made for a scary good time! Do you incorporate Halloween or other holidays into your classes? If so, we’d love to hear your good ideas. Consider submitting a post to [email protected]

Happy Halloween!

[1] I generally prohibit laptop use except for in-class exercises.

[2] I stole this witty quote from a funny Stranger Things meme found on the Internet.

[3] Today’s exercise focused on the discrimination cases we are reading for Memo Three, but in the past, I’ve created an exercise based on the Salem Witch Trials, which is a perfect platform to discuss how the legal system has been used to perpetuate sex discrimination.


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