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Science Kids on the Loose

Science Kids on the Loose

A Composed Pumpkin

One of my favorite Sid activities is the Decayed Pumpkin investigation. Kids get to experience first hand the wonders of an icky yucky rotting vegetable. Last year, on this blog, I admitted that I was wary of this activity due to the smell and mold factors. But not this year! This year I decided to go for it in a BIG way. I wanted to conduct the decomposing pumpkin activity with Leo’s entire class. Many hands touching the slime and ooze. It was going to be great! Miss D. was on board immediately. She volunteered to sacrifice the class pumpkin that had been acquired at the field trip to the local farm. Note that this field trip occurred in early October.
This very special pumpkin has been through the preschool ringer. First Miss D. had drew a big happy face on the pumpkin, complete with curly hair. For a couple of weeks the face smiled as the children “shaved” it’s face with real shaving cream and play razors. Then Miss D. introduced a new activity with the stalwart pumpkin. She invited the children to pound small plastic nails into the pumpkin with small plastic hammers. So much fun! So in addition to the happy face the pumpkin acquired small holes all over it’s shiny orange surface. This activity went on with gusto until the end of October when it was my turn.
I decided to divide the activity into two separate days in the classroom. The first visit involved cutting the pumpkin and scraping out the seeds and sticky inside. Before we began, I took a picture of the pumpkin in it’s whole state:
The kids were not sentimental about their classroom friend…they were excited when I got the top off and the scooping began! It was fun to see which kids wanted to get in with bare hands vs. the kids who wanted to use the fancy scooper. Miss D. and I lined them up for the task.
I had toasted some seeds at home for the kids to sample at school. It was interesting to see them react to the seeds…some liked them and other didn’t.
Jonathan was a big a fan!
Then I explained that we would be putting the pumpkin away for a few days to see what would happen. I asked the children to make predictions. The word “moldy” came up and we guessed that the pumpkin would decompose. Miss D. and I decided to wrap the pumpkin in a plastic bag, place it between two large black containers, and set it in the sun outside for a few days. It was important for the school that we not attract critters to the classroom.
So, the first part of the experiment happened on a Thursday. I returned on the following Tuesday to see what state our pumpkin was in. I was hoping for lots of gooey, sticky, gross decomposition.
Back in Miss D’s classroom, we talked about the word “decompose” and what we expected the pumpkin to look like. The kids were ready to see what had happened to the pumpkin. I was reminded of the challenges of classroom management as we helped them all put on plastic gloves. It took a while because the gloves were big. Finally we were ready to head outside to see how our experiment turned out.
With great anticipation we unwrapped the plastic and pulled out…
A completely intact and healthy pumpkin!
Yup, the pumpkin did NOT decompose. I couldn’t believe it. We all examined the pumpkin, looking for signs of decay, but there was none to be found. Leo claimed to see tiny black spots on the top, but for the most part that pumpkin was fresh.
Miss D. wisely stated, “That’s why we conduct experiments in science!” We talked with the kids about the tight plastic bag and the lack of air. We also decided to give it a few more days to see what would happen. I was disappointed but thankfully, the kids were not. They were curious and mostly happy about getting to wear plastic gloves. And they did learn about one very important part of science: trial and error. Also a great life lesson!
That is one stubborn pumpkin.
Have you had any experiment go awry? How did you explain the circumstances to your kids?
UPDATE: I checked in on the pumpkin today (13 days later) and it still looks pretty good! The inside has started to mold but the outside is still orange and hard. Miss D. wants us to keep waiting!

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