Developed four years ago, the project culminates in an outdoor (weather permitting) test launch where students take turns hurling pumpkins into mid-air and cheering one another on.
“We developed Punkin’ Chunkin’ as a way to incorporate more Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM) into our curriculum. It’s an engaging way for our students to learn about the design process,” Christina Kerr, Grade 4 teacher, says.
One of the first long-term assignments of the year, the project is completed entirely at home within a one-month timeframe. Students begin by deciding what object they will launch – either a candy corn pumpkin, a small gourd, or a pumpkin weighing less than two pounds – and then design a device that is either human-powered, catapult, or trebuchet. Since the project budget is $5 or less, students must use readily available building materials from their home, garage, or outdoors.
“They learn to be creative within the budget constraints. They are also required to build a machine that can be carried from the classroom to the outdoor field, set up, and launched without any extra help,” Kerr explains.
In addition to fostering joy in learning and empowering students to become confident learners, Punkin’ Chunkin’ teaches important skills like preparation, time management, and observation. And when it comes time for the test-launch, it’s all about the process – this isn’t a competition.
“The machines don’t always work as planned, so we encourage the students to take time to reflect on what went right and what went wrong. This helps them gain resiliency,” Kerr points out.
Punkin’ Chunkin’ allows students’ individuality to shine through: “The diversity and creativity of the different solutions they come up with is just amazing!”