Autumn isn’t complete without a trip to the Pumpkin Patch! We went this week with our local MOMS Club chapter, and the kids each got to pick a pumpkin out of the field. They were so pumped about exploring their new treasures that I decided I would sacrifice a portion of my fall decor in the name of SCIENCE.
There are many great ways to use your pumpkin for early STEM learning! (STEM = Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) Here are 5 fun STEM-skill–building activities that work well at home or in school:
1. Measuring Your Pumpkin
(STEM Skills: Numbers and counting; Using tools; Collecting data; Estimating; Making a Hypothesis)
- Use a flexible measuring tape to measure the diameter of your pumpkin, and a food scale to measure its weight. Toddlers will practice motor skills by holding the tape and preschoolers will practice reading and writing numbers.
- Have kids make a hypothesis about which pumpkin will be the largest or an estimation of the pumpkin’s girth or weight.
- Use this great printable Data Sheet from JDaniel4smom.com to record your pumpkin measurements and other observations!
2. Pumpkin Sink or Float
(STEM Skills: Making and testing hypothesis)
- Pumpkins are pretty heavy, but will they sink in water? Have kids make a hypothesis about whether the pumpkin will float or sink. Ask them to back up their guess with a reason (this is always the tough part!).
- Place the pumpkin in a large bin of water and observe what happens! (Pumpkins have a lot of air inside them, just like large boats, which makes them less dense than water, and therefore able to float.)
- Check out the Titanic Game from StayatHomeScience.com for another fun Sink or Float activity!
3. Pumpkin Discovery and Sensory Learning
(STEM Skills: Making observations; Counting; Estimating)
- Cut a hole in your pumpkin (you can open it from the top if you are planning to carve it, or open up the side for a different view). Let the kids look and reach inside the pumpkin and make observations using their five senses. (If you have a magnifying glass or microscope, they can explore in greater detail!)
- If you hate the idea of messy pumpkin guts everywhere, you can place the innards in a gallon Ziplock to make a Sensory Bag!
- Pull the seeds out of the pumpkin…either have kids count as they go or fill a jar and estimate the number of seeds inside! (Roasted pumpkin seeds are a delicious snack that kids can help with by collecting and rinsing the seeds. This is my favorite savory method from Simplyrecipes.com.)
4. Pumpkin Volcanos
(STEM Skills: Chemistry; Making observations; Making a hypothesis; Manipulating variables; Forming a conclusion)
- Turn the old baking soda and vinegar experiment into fall fun by turning your pumpkin into a volcano! Baking soda reacts with vinegar in a chemical reaction that produces Carbon Dioxide gas in the form of bubbles.
- You can produce a similar reaction by mixing baking soda and lemon juice. Have the kids hypothesize which combination will make a larger reaction and then test it out!
- If you are tired of the traditional baking soda and vinegar, you can make Fizzing Foam erupt out of your pumpkin instead! Click here for the full FOAM instructions from StayatHomeScience.com.
5. The Decomposing Pumpkin
(STEM Skills: Biology; Making observations; Using tools)
- As anyone who has left a Jack-o-lantern sit for a week on their front porch knows, open pumpkins will start to rot! Have kids observe the open pumpkin daily to look (and smell!) for changes as the organic material breaks down.
- Use tools such as a magnifying glass and tweezers to explore the mold growing inside the pumpkin. Click here for more details from LittleBinsforLittleHands.com and a fun book to pair with this experiment.