Sure, you can set pumpkins out on the porch and carve them, but in addition to being fun and decorative, those orange orbs can be a STEAM learning tool. Check out these five reasons to pick up a couple extra pumpkins in the patch this year. They don’t need to be large or perfect for any of these projects.
1. Hypothesize with Them
Have the kids estimate how many seeds are in your pumpkin. Will a bigger pumpkin have more seeds? Does the number of ribs in the pumpkin matter? The only way to find out is to dig in and take a look. Cut open the top of the pumpkin and scoop out all the seeds into a bowl or jar. Count a rough fraction of the seeds and then multiply to get an estimate. Then count all the seeds to see how close you were. But don’t toss those seeds when you have the answer, instead…
2. Toast Them
To make a tasty snack, roast your seeds. Rinse them, pat dry, and toss with oil. Spread them on a rimmed baking sheet. Put in a 350° F oven for about 20 to 30 minutes. You can add salt, seasoned salt, or your favorite spice blend.
3. Launch Them
Can you create a pumpkin seed catapult? A catapult uses the release of stored or potential energy to launch an object. To create a mini catapult, gather about 12 craft sticks, 4 or 5 rubber bands, and a plastic spoon.
- Stack 6 craft sticks together and connect both ends with rubber bands.
- Stack 2 craft sticks and connect at one end with a rubber band.
- Slide one of the two sticks between the bottom two sticks in the taller stack, so that the two sticks are perpendicular to the larger stack. Use rubber bands to make an X to hold the sticks in place.
- Use another rubber band to attach the plastic spoon to the stick rising above the stack.
- Place your pumpkin seed (or other small object) in the bowl of the spoon. Press the spoon down and release.
You can experiment with how many sticks are in your stack, how far you push the flinging stick into the stack, how much you depress the spoon, and how heavy your object is to see how these variables affect flight length.
4. Carve Them
The obvious pumpkin art project is carving a jack-o‘-lantern—either a traditional face or intricate designs, but you can also paint your pumpkin with or without carving it.
5. Read About Them
Check out these pumpkin books for more projects.
- How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin? by Margaret McNamara and G. Brian Karas introduces skip counting and estimating—and shows that you can’t always judge from the outside.
- Stomp Rockets, Catapults, and Kaleidoscopes by Curt Gabrielson shows how to make a catapult and lots of other fun science projects with many recycled materials. The book provides background information along with step-by-step projects and questions to get kids thinking.
- The Pumpkin Book by Gail Gibbons takes readers through the pumpkin life cycle and gives ideas for projects using pumpkins.
Whether you’re exploring math or physics, or toasting a pumpkin treat, you can STEAM up the cooler days of fall and fall in love with science, technology, engineering, arts, and math.