November 3, 2016

Thanksgiving STEM Challenge: Pumpkin Picker

Thanksgiving STEM Challenge: In Pumpkin Picker, students build a pumpkin-harvesting device. Includes modifications grades 2 - 8.

How is it November already?! 

Last week, we left off with the Pilgrims in the New World, with their shelters complete. The next step is to gather available food in the area. That's right, it's time for Pumpkin Picker!

Just a reminder of the challenge order we're following:

Mini Mayflower (Get to where you're going)
Protect-a-Pilgrim (Build a shelter)
Pumpkin Picker (Gather available food)
Corn Cultivator (Set up a sustainable food source)
Turkey Transporter (Once all major needs are met, there's time for fun!)


Students design a device to efficiently harvest pumpkins (measured in time or number of moves to clear the pumpkin patch).

Where Can I Find Out More?

The video walk-through of Pumpkin Picker is embedded below. In it, you'll find information about materials, modifying difficulty level, measuring results, extensions and some tips & tricks to guide you. After you watch it, you'll be better able to guide your students through the challenge. Check it out. However, if you prefer to read, you'll find the video transcribed at the end of this post.

Where are the Others?

Between Oct. 20 and Nov. 13, I'll be posting one Thanksgiving STEM challenge video every Thursday to my YouTube channel and here on my blog. (The final post will come on a Sunday to give you time to implement before Thanksgiving break!)

Until then, you'll find the Thanksgiving bundle briefly described in this post

All challenges are available individually and in discounted bundles in my TpT store, as well.


Video Transcription

Hi and welcome to week three of the Thanksgiving STEM challenges. This one is called Pumpkin Picker. In week one, the Pilgrims came to the new world in Mini Mayflower. In week two, they built themselves shelters in Protect the Pilgrim. And in week three, they're going to gather food in order to make sure they don't go hungry. Before we go any further, let's take a second to look at the materials and the STEM Challenge Cycle.

This the STEM Challenge Cycle you should follow for every challenge. I've defined each stem in another video. You can click on the title now to see the cycle explained.

So I have a couple options here for you. My preference is to use the little candy pumpkins whenever you can. But I found that in some areas they sell these all the way through Thanksgiving, and I some areas they stop selling them after Halloween. So you might be too late to get these. If you are, a good substitute are Rollos, or those little wrapped caramels.

In this one I have a guideline underneath the pumpkins so that they'll be set up in perfect arrays, and this one's just a green paper and the students can determine if they even want to use arrays of what the best pumpkin patch is for their design.

There are definitely benefits to both approaches. Either using a guideline so students know where to place the pumpkins, or allowing them to set it up however they like. If you use a guideline, you're making sure that all of the groups have the same pumpkin patch to start with and so comparing the designs is legitimate.

When students set up their own pumpkin patch, that has benefits as well. One of the benefits is that it's basically an extension of the design. Instead of designing a tool for a specific pumpkin patch, they're designing complimentary tools and pumpkin patches together at the same time. In order to make it fair, you need to make sure you give the same amount of pumpkins, or Rollos, or whatever, to every group so that the comparisons are fair. If you are going to be looking to extend on this idea of arrays with this challenge, I recommend using 24 pumpkins or 36 because they are many factors, and thus there are many possible arrays.

So what students are going to be doing is, they're going to be harvesting the pumpkins and putting them into a harvest container. So you need something the students can put the pumpkins in. These foils tins or little styrofoam or plastic bowl work really well, you can get these at the Dollar Tree. And you do want to think about the container because the larger the container, the easier it is. And the smaller container makes it a little bit more challenging in some ways, and I'll show an example in just a second.

So I have two designs to test here today. I have one right here, and this is probably the simplest design you ever did see, but it's pretty effective if memory serves. So one of the rules is that the students can't actually physically touch the pumpkins. Oh, I missed one. So as I was saying before, the size of the container does impact how well it harvests. Now, this will probably turn upside down a little bit. But if I'm using the bowl, it might be a little bit more challenging, let's see. I missed one so that'll be a problem.

The way you're going to have students measure results in this one is either by the amount of time it takes to actually entirely harvest the pumpkin patch. So in cases where it doesn't fall into the container, they have to use their tool in order to pick it back up and put it into the harvest container. The other thing you can do is have them record the number of moves it takes them in order to clear the pumpkin patch.

If I were recording the number of moves it takes me to clear the pumpkin patch, obviously I need to finish, but I have done two moves and I have cleared 10 pumpkins out of 30. So if I continue at that rate, it should take me a total of 6 moves in order to clear the pumpkin patch. So that creates sort of another challenge, and you can have them actually record both the total amount of time and the total number of moves it takes in order to clear the pumpkin patch.

So let's take a look at our other design here. We have a little claw. This one's actually working pretty well, it is only getting two pumpkins at a time, but it is fun. Let's see how the design fares with Rollos. So just a note there, when I opened like that and I grab my Rollos, I got this one, but this one I missed, and I went to try to pick it up again, I would count that as a second move. So even though I only went to the harvest container once, I would count that as two. You don't need to do that, just make sure that the students know what counts as a move, and what doesn't count as a move. If you're having them record that. Again, you can make it a lot simpler by just recording the total amount of time it takes to clear the pumpkin patch.

To increase difficulty, you can always increase the size of the pumpkin patch. You can also require that the tool works well with various arrays. Again, having them calculate the number of moves it takes to clear the pumpkin patch in addition to or instead of the amount of time, also requires an element of strategy on their part, so it also increases difficulty.

To extend on this, you can continue your studies of the Plymouth colony and the New World, have students create math problems based on their arrays, based on the average number of moves it took for different groups to clear the pumpkin patch. There are many ways to extend this with math.

Look up some YouTube videos for the world’s biggest pumpkin, it will blow your mind. And of course the ever popular pumpkin life cycle.

You have the basics in order to do this on your own in your class, but as always if you want more than just the basics, check out the resource.

This November be thankful you don't have to waste your time re-inventing the wheel. This resource contains everything you need including modifications for use with second through eighth graders. You'll still need to gather the simple materials, of course, but the rest is already done. You'll get Aligned Next Generation Science Standards, links to my STEM Challenge How-to videos to help you get the most from each challenge, and the Pumpkin Picker Materials list.

In Teacher Tips you'll find premise and setup, how to increase or decrease difficulty through the Criteria and Constraints list, measuring results, and cross-curricular extension suggestions. You'll find an editable Criteria and Constraints list so you can tailor the challenge to your students.
For Student Handouts there are two versions, four-page expanded room for response for younger students, and a two-page condensed space paper-saver version. You'll also find a set of group discussion questions and a guideline to help students set up their pumpkin patches. In the Extension Handouts, you'll find pumpkin writing, math extension and process flow templates, as well as task card direction and templates.

This resource is available individually and is part of the discounted Thanksgiving and Mega STEM Challenge bundles. Links can be found in the description below the video.

Well, all right, we're all done with Pumpkin Picker. Again, it's one of those that looks really simple, but it's deceptive, it can be really tricky.

Be sure you "like" and "subscribe" and come back next week. We'll be talking about Corn Cultivator. See you next time.

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