So you’ve gone to the patch and picked the perfect pumpkin. You bring it home and get to work carving the seasons most popular front porch decoration. At night the glow of your jack-o-lantern will welcome eager beggars to the door in search of a sugary treat, or is it the clever trick they’re after.
But what happens to Jack once Halloween is over? If you think you made this popular pie filler look scary with the stroke of a knife; wait until you see what Mother Nature has in store. Once the pumpkin is carved the inside becomes exposed to the unpredictable fall weather. Mild days and cool nights mixed with the seasonal rain sets the stage for decomposition.
Decomposition happens when animal and plant matter is broken down into smaller pieces. Bacteria, fungi, protists, worms, and certain other organisms continue the process.
Here’s an activity that you can do with your decaying pumpkin! You can do this activity any time of the year by using a rotting log or a compost pile.
- One carved pumpkin (save those seeds!!), or a rotted log or compost pile
- A camera or paper & crayons or makers to record observations
- Let the pumpkin begin to rot. This is where Jack gets a little scarier.
- Get out and look at your pumpkin daily. Take a camera to record the changes. In the weeks to come mold will begin to appear. Make a list of critters you observe on and inside the pumpkin. What are they doing? Eating? Perching? The pumpkin will be a food source for a host of insects and worms. What are the birds doing with the pumpkin? Perching? Snacking on the buffet of creepy crawlers that are munching on Jack’s rotting flesh? And “Oh the aroma”, what does Jack smell like a few weeks after being carved?
- Soon Jack will be all but a memory. How did the pumpkin fit into the food chain? What did you learn about decomposition? Did nature take care of itself? What are the advantages to decomposition and decay?
Activity adapted from Decay Relay, Twenty/Twenty Projects and Activities for Wild School Sites, An Ohio Project Wild Action Guide.
Tasty Pumpkin Seeds:
Ask an adult help you make this delicious snack!
Hopefully you saved the seeds from your pumpkin. Not only did your jack-o-lantern provide you with Halloween decorations and a lesson in decomposition but also a snack! Here's what you need to do:
1. Rinse the seeds in water.
2. Lay the seeds on paper towels or pat them until dry.
3. Lightly coat with oil, (vegetable or olive).
4. Salt to taste.
5. Spread the seeds onto a cookie sheet. Ask an adult to place in the oven and bake at 250 degrees for 25 to 40 minutes. Make sure to turn seeds so they cook evenly on both sides. Once they are lightly browned thye can be removed from oven. Let the seeds cool and ENJOY!!!!
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