Chunkin pumpkins teaches second-graders a lesson

Daniel Villalpando, with a furtive smile, pushed down his mini catapult as his classmates, all lined up on either side of a tape measure, sprang forward, yelling in surprise as the candy pumpkin flew past them.

"Wow!" yelled classmate Logan Donahoe. "It went over the measuring tape!"

They had set a class record.

At Woodland Elementary School, Nancy Jang's second-grade class held the finals of its Pumpkin Chunkin Project using catapults individually made out of tongue depressors and rubber bands to see who could "chunk" their pumpkin the farthest.

Daniel, 7, flung his 144 inches, beating his closest competitor by more than a foot. With his tongue sticking out of his huge grin, Daniel received a golden pumpkin statue that he lifted over his head, jumping up and down as he classmates cheered.

"I loved it because you got to chunk stuff, and you could show your friends," said Daniel, who revealed his secret to winning was pushing down his catapult with only one finger.

The class measured how far each pumpkin went and used the data to plot distances on a graph, find the range and mode, and discuss what forces were in motion.

The students needed to push down their catapult to propel their pumpkins, and then the pumpkins were pulled down by gravity, Jang explained to her students.

Jang got the idea for the project from watching the Discovery Channel's "Punkin Chunkin" and found the idea for the catapults on Pinterest.

The project integrates what the students are learning in math and science, an earlier art project on Jack O-Lanterns, and fiction and nonfiction books they've read on pumpkins.

"Plus it's really fun, so it gets them excited," Jang said.

After a successful first year, Jang plans on bringing it back next year.

"Absolutely," she said. "This year was kind of a test year, but they loved it."

Twitter: @britneyjbarnes

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