What do you think of when you hear the word fall? Brisk air, warm apple cider, boots and scarves... We’ve done a few activities about leaves and why they change color, which is a huge part of fall scenery. If you missed these blogs, check them out here:
Leaf blog 1: http://www.discoveryexpresskids.com/blog/why-do-leaves-change-color
Leaf blog 2: http://www.discoveryexpresskids.com/blog/fun-with-fall-leaves-preserve-leaves-for-fall-projects
Another popular activity in the fall is pumpkin carving! Many families enjoy picking pumpkins from a pumpkin patch (or your local grocery store or farmer’s market) and then carving them for fall and Halloween decorations! Today we are going to learn more about pumpkins and explore a few different pumpkin science activities.
What is a pumpkin?
Pumpkins are part of the winter squash family. They can be eaten and are often used as fall decorations. Pumpkins are thought to have originated from North America, and are usually yellow to dark orange in color. You may not have known that pumpkins are a FRUIT (fruits have seeds, vegetables do not). Nutritionally, pumpkins are very low fat and high in vitamin A. Although pumpkins are usually 6-18 pounds, some pumpkins weigh over 75 pounds!
Pumpkin carving started as a tradition to ward off demons! They are often associated with witches, wizards, and Halloween folklore. Although many people carve scary pumpkins, feel free to carve any sort of fun shape or happy face into your pumpkin--make it your own!
YOU WILL NEED:
1. Ask a parent for help!
2. Use the knife to cut a circle around the stem of the pumpkin. The circle should be big enough to fit your hand through. Remove the top of the pumpkin.
3. Out come the guts! The “guts” of the pumpkin are the stringy innards and seeds inside the shell of the pumpkin. You need to scoop as much of this out as possible.
4. Save those seeds--they make a delicious healthy snack! Scroll to the bottom of this blog for an easy pumpkin seed recipe.
5. You may want to use a permanent marker to draw out your design on your pumpkin before cutting. This will make it easier to cut once you’ve started.
6. Use a sharp, long knife to cut your design out of your pumpkin. The knife needs to be long enough to get all the way through the wall of your pumpkin. Pop the cut-out pieces of your pumpkin out as you go and throw them away.
7. When you’ve finished your design, put a candle in the middle of your pumpkin. Light the candle and watch your design come to life! Happy Halloween!
Fun science, pumpkin style!
In a past blog, we learned how to make pumpkin slime! You may have made slime, or “oobleck” before, but in the spirit of fall, we used pumpkins for a fun seasonal twist! The slime that you create in this activity is a non-newtonian substance, which means it sometimes behaves like a liquid and sometimes behaves like a solid.
Check it out here: http://www.discoveryexpresskids.com/blog/fall-fun-make-your-own-pumpkin-slime
You’ve probably seen baking soda and vinegar react in other activities, but today we’ll create a reaction inside a pumpkin for some spooky Halloween fun! Baking soda is a base and vinegar is an acid. When acids and bases mix, they react and create carbon dioxide gas. In this case, you see the carbon dioxide gas produced by a mountain of foaming bubbles! Let’s try it out!
To learn more about acid-base reactions, check out our blog here:
YOU WILL NEED:
A small to medium-sized pumpkin
Here’s what to do!
1. You may use your pumpkin from the previous pumpkin-carving activity, if you wish! If you haven’t yet carved a pumpkin, follow the directions below.
2. Use a knife (with the help of an adult) to cut a circle around the stem of your pumpkin. Make sure the circle is large enough to fit your hand through.
3. Remove the stem of the pumpkin and scoop out the guts!
4. Dump about a cup of baking soda inside the pumpkin. This is the base in your reaction.
5. If you want to make your pumpkin reaction even more exciting, add a few drops of food coloring to your vinegar.
6. Pour some vinegar inside the pumpkin and watch your pumpkin ooze colorful foam! (Remember, the bubbles form from carbon dioxide gas produced in the reaction between vinegar and baking soda). Try adding dish soap to make your reaction even foamier!
Reuse and Recycle: Grow a pumpkin out of a pumpkin!
Small pumpkins (fresh, not rotted)
Here’s what to do!
1. Ask an adult for help to cut the top off of your pumpkin. Remove the stem.
2. Stuff the inside of your pumpkin with dirt.
3. Treat your pumpkin like a potted plant--water the dirt daily and wait for your pumpkin plant to start sprouting!
4. Once your plant begins to grow, plant the entire pumpkin in the ground outside. Dig a shallow hole and bury the pumpkin. Continue to monitor growth and water your plant. Soon enough, you’ll have your own pumpkin plant!
Pumpkin Seed Recipe:
2009. Pumpkin 2007. Uploaded from Wikimedia Commons on 10/23/2016.
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/d/d8/Pumpkin2007.jpg File in the Public Domain.
Schoenberger, 2007. CompetitivePumpkins. Uploaded from Wikimedia Commons on 10/23/2016. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/c/ca/CompetitivePumpkins.jpg/800px-CompetitivePumpkins.jpg File used in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. No changes were made.
Vishalsh521, 2011. Pumpkin flower. Uploaded from Wikimedia Commons on 10/23/2016. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/6c/Pumpkin_flower.jpg/800px-Pumpkin_flower.jpg File used in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. No changes were made.