Monday, October 25, 2010

Smart Stuff with Twig Walkingstick: Now THAT would be a Great Pumpkin

Twig lives in and around the Wooster campus of the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, where he enjoys the prairie plant in Secrest Arboretum. His alter ego is Kurt Knebusch, one of our super-talented writers and editors on campus. Each month, look for Twig to answer a reader questions and some additional interesting facts below. After Twig's post, we will be providing some ideas and suggestions on how to incorporate the info in Twig's column into fun science learning for your students and children.

Q. Twig: What if there were flying pumpkins?

Wobbity, wobbity. Um, yes, well, if there were, you’d have to keep looking up all the time so you wouldn’t get klonked in the head by one. But: As far as I know, for better or worse, there are no flying pumpkins.

Reason being, pumpkins don’t have wings. They also don’t have propellers. Nor Rolls Royce vectored-thrust turbofan engines, as used on the AV-8A Harrier vertical/short takeoff and landing aircraft. A pumpkin with vertical/short takeoff and landing capabilities would be a powerful pumpkin. And hard to carve.

The Great Pumpkin flies but isn’t real. He’s in that Charlie Brown Halloween special. He “flies through the air to deliver toys to all the good little children in the world,” say Linus and Wikipedia. “(He) is likely to pass by anyone who doubts his existence.” Which means no Nintendo DS for me, boo!

Birds have wings. So do bats and most insects. Seeds with wings are called samaras. But pumpkins and their seeds aren’t samaras.

The wind beneath your pumpkin,

P.S. Examples of samaras are those spinning “whirligigs” that come down from maple trees.

To find out more, try the Ohio State University Extension fact sheets “Growing Squash and Pumpkins in the Home Garden”  and “Growing Giant Pumpkins in the Home Garden” (but not flying ones); Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft 2007-2008; It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966); and “Blowing in the Wind: Seeds & Fruit Dispersed by the Wind."

Webster’s New World College Dictionary gives two ways to say “samara”: “SAM-er-uh” and “suh-MAR-uh.”

Using this information for education:
Pumpkins are a fabulous fall plant that most students are familiar with carving. In addition to being a great tool to study decomposition, they also provide an excellent opportunity to learn about plant life cycles. Students can draw or order the sequence of pictures depicting a pumpkins life cycle...but be sure not to leave out that important part of decomposition.

I also love all of the great pumpkin activities that reach across the curriculum from literacy to art to math and science and yes, even recipes the Mrs. Nelson provides. These are some great ideas!

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