MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

October 27, 2012

Smashing pumpkins for science

BFSA students cheer messy academic fling

By Cathy Spaulding
Phoenix Staff Writer

— Ben Franklin Science Academy students cheered each time a pumpkin fell from a 60-foot cherry-picker Friday afternoon.

When they weren’t cheering, the students noted on their clipboards how fast each pumpkin fell and how far pieces flew when the pumpkins splattered on the parking lot.

The pumpkin chunking capped off a day of learning about science, technology engineering and math (STEM) Friday. Six pumpkins of various sizes were raised 60 feet in an OG&E cherry-picker truck, then dropped to the parking lot. Older students measured how far pieces flew after the pumpkins hit the ground.

“We’ve had pumpkin activities all day,” BFSA third-grade teacher Donna Lorenz said. “We measured the pumpkins, weighed them, and the students predicted how far they’d spread when they land.”

“We measured to see how heavy each pumpkin was, its mass and its circumference,” said third-grader Krysta Hatcher.

“I learned that pumpkins are very hard, but they crack easily if you drop them from the sky,” said classmate Blade Todd.

Pumpkins weighed from 4 to 20 pounds and ranged from softball size to bigger than a breadbox.

Some students said they expected pieces from the larger, heavier pumpkins to fly the farthest.

Not so.

One piece from a 4-pounder bounced more than 10 feet and landed in the grass.

First-grade teacher Crystal Smith said her students also tried floating pumpkins in water and counting pumpkin seeds.

“We’re doing STEM learning each Friday,” said second-grade teacher Sandra Riley, who logged distances in her tablet computer. She said students learned about mass and circumference.

Does that mean they learned about pumpkin pi?

Pi is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter.

“That could very well be a pumpkin pi,” Riley said, grinning with a new idea. “Each investigation leads to another investigation.”  

Reach Cathy Spaulding at (918) 684-2928 or cspaulding@muskogee phoenix.com.