Why do you think people call old, abandoned towns "ghost towns?" Do you think it's an accurate description of places like this? Why or why not?
What would you do with Cerro Gordo if you had the money to buy it and turn it into anything you wanted?
If you could travel through time, when would you most like to visit Cerro Gordo: during its heyday, when silver flowed from the mines and gunslingers ruled the streets; in the past few decades when the former owners gave tours of the town; or a few years from now when the new owners are finished refurbishing the town with 21st-century accommodations? Why?
If Cerro Gordo's new owners set part of the land aside for archaeological digs, what kinds of artifacts do you think archaeologists would find? Do you think allowing digs would honor the sellers' hopes to find buyers who appreciate Cerro Gordo's rich history and are committed to preserving the town's integrity? Why or why not?
- Invite students to share what they know about ghost stories. Point out that ghost stories are works of fiction. What makes them scary is that they contain just enough truth to seem real.
- Remind students that the article they read described Cerro Gordo as a ghost town. But that label referred to the fact that it is an old, abandoned town. It didn't mean Cerro Gordo had ghosts. Then point out that there are places in the world that people do think are haunted. Invite students to share what they know about some of these places.
- Have students conduct research to identify and learn about a place that people think is haunted. What theories do people have and what stories do people tell about this place? What evidence makes people think this place is really haunted?
- Challenge students to use what they learned to write their own ghost story about this place.
CUSTOMIZE THE LESSON:
Read this Smithsonian magazine article to discover the hauntings that inspired thrills and chills in fiction and film.
Halloween is a centuries-old tradition that marks the eve of All Hallows’ Day, a holiday that honors the “spirits” of the afterlife. Invite students to enjoy this Smithsonian Folkways collection, which combines stories and music about the spooky elements of Halloween.
In this teacher-created lesson from the Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, high school students hold a spooky Halloween funeral to lay to rest spelling and grammatical errors in their own writing.
This online exhibit from the Smithsonian Latino Center focuses on the origins of the Latin American day of celebration, Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), how it has been celebrated traditionally and how it is celebrated now.
Invite students to explore spooky delights and dark treasures from Smithsonian vaults with this collection from the Smithsonian Learning Lab.
An innovative annotated edition of the novel shows how the Mary Shelley classic has many lessons about the danger of unchecked innovation. Read this Smithsonian magazine article to learn all about it.
Read this article from the National Museum of American History to explore how packaged candy, a modern convenience, signaled the shift toward Halloween as a widespread commercial holiday.
In honor of Halloween, invite students to read this blog to see and learn about some of the weird, creepy, gross, scary and wonderful plants in the Smithsonian Gardens.
Are you still looking for a creative costume for your upcoming Halloween celebration? Take a look at this blog for some quick ideas pulled straight from the from the National Museum of American History’s collections.
Read this Smithsonian magazine article to learn how 19th-century urbanization unleashed the nation’s anarchic spirits, turning holiday mischief into mayhem.