October Teacher Resource Guide

Garlanded in spectacular red and yellow leaves, noted for its mild days and crisp, frosty nights, October is the month of Halloween, jack-o-lanterns, and migrating birds heading southward for warmer climates. Fields dotted with haystacks glowing in the sun, piles of bright orange pumpkins near neatly-painted barns, rustling piles of fallen leaves, and, in some areas of the northern hemisphere, frequent clear, clean skies are all things that we think of when October is mentioned.

However, there are also some unusual things about October that may pique your interest and make you appreciate the uniqueness of the months that make up our year. One small detail of October, for example, is that more American presidents have been born in this month than in any other. Six presidents of the New World's oldest republic came into the world during this month - John Quincy Adams, Rutherford Hayes, Chester Arthur, Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Jimmy Carter. This is an odd example of how chance can sometimes group related things together without there being any particular meaning to it.

October also witnessed the end of the first recorded trip made around the entire planet on foot (with the exception of airline flights to cross the oceans, of course). A fellow named David Kunst left his home in Waseca, Minnesota in June of 1970, accompanied by his brother John and a mule who was burdened not only with David's camp gear, but with the comical name Willie Makeit. Along the way, David was shot by Afghan tribesmen, who also killed his brother John, met his future second wife in Australia, and wore out twenty-one pairs of shoes. He finally reached his Minnesota home on October 5th, 1974, with a new record and, very likely, the most well-toned leg muscles on Earth.

In the natural world, many birds also make long journeys in the month of October - some of them migrating as far as 6,000 miles (although, interestingly, this still doesn't match David Kunst's total journey). Most don't fly that far, but all are guided by the Earth's magnetic field because of special sections of their brain, called "Cluster N," that can detect it. Since there is a nerve running from the eye of birds to Cluster N, it's even possible that birds can see the magnetic field of the Earth visually, meaning that the birds who stream overhead in flocks each October may be seeing the world in a way that we literally never can.

Halloween is a fun time of the year, with the strange faces of jack-o-lanterns gleaming through the autumn dark, the mystery and spookiness of the time of year, pumpkin pies, Halloween parties, and, of course, all kinds of costumes. The celebration is also an ancient ritual related to honoring the ancestral spirits of the family, while driving away evil spirits with frightening masks (the origin of today's jack-o-lanterns). However, Halloween has also become big business in recent years. According to studies by the National Retail Federation, more than half of people buy Halloween costumes nowadays, and the total spent is over $5 billion. But there's another side to the pleasantly creepy holiday now, as well - many kids now gather donations for the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), as well as plenty of tasty candy.

Notable October Holidays, Events, and Celebrations

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