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Science Kids on the Loose

The Decayed Pumpkin

Learn about the effects of decay by comparing and contrasting something that's decayed with the same thing before it changes.

Download this activity (pdf)


  • Old pumpkin that’s decaying. A jack o’ lantern would be great. You can also decay a pumpkin by scooping out the seeds and guts and then let it sit outside in the sun for a few days.
  • Fresh pumpkin
  • Trays or newspaper to protect the table
  • Knife to cut pumpkins
  • Gloves or sandwich bags to protect hands when touching decayed pumpkin


  1. Feel free to observe a different fruit or vegetable instead of pumpkins.
  2. Use descriptive words to talk about the pumpkins. Words like icky, yucky, and gross are perfectly ok.
  3. This is a great activity for kids to record in their science journals.


  1. Place the two pumpkins on paper-covered table or trays.
  2. Observe both of the pumpkins. You and your child can describe what they look like, smell like, and feel like. (Use gloves if you touch the decayed pumpkin.)
  3. Carefully cut open the fresh pumpkin. Both of you can describe what it looks like, smells like, and feels like.
  4. Cut and describe the decaying pumpkin, too.
  5. Talk about the differences between the fresh and decayed pumpkins. The decayed pumpkin was once like the fresh one. What happened to it? Describe the changes.
  6. If you have a compost pile, put the pumpkins there.

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Produced by: Funding is provided by:
Jim Hensen Corporation logo CPB ViNCi MetLife The Rosehills Foundation S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation logo The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations logo

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