Now that Halloween is over lower elementary has begun a Pumpkin Decomposition Experiment, where students predict and observe what happens when they leave two pumpkins outside.
At least twice a week the students will visit the pumpkins and record the appearance of the pumpkins and what changes they see happening in or on top of the pumpkin, then record their observations with pictures and words. Ms. Jessica has the children search for worms, mold, beetles, fungus, and other decomposers at work and discuss their role in munching up the pumpkin and helping them turn back to soil.
Once the pumpkins are gone or mostly gone, the students will continue to visit the spot to see if new plants begin to grow there. As a class, they will review the predictions made at the beginning of the experiment about what might happen to the pumpkins, by displaying photographs and reading the children’s observations over the course of time. The students will begin to see their scientific observations affirmed. This experiment gives students an opportunity to observe and study decomposition, one of the most important processes in the garden and in nature.
Decomposition is a concept that can arise over and over again, where you can ask children things like, what would happen to this banana peel if we left it on the ground? To help remind a child of the life cycles taking place in your garden keep the concept of decomposition on the fore front of your mind. Perhaps even start your own decomposition experiment at your house.
Kelly Johnson, MA, is education coordinator and a board member for the Beaches Local Food Network Community Children’s Garden in Neptune Beach, FL, and the author of the recently published Wings, Worms, and Wonder: A Guide for Creatively Integrating Gardening and Outdoor Learning Into Children’s Lives.
We thank Kelly for providing our school with nature study activities, as well as helping us earn the grant for our outdoor garden. Learn more about Kelly and her book here.