Outside-the-bag teaching

Published 9:46 pm Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Exploding pumpkins.

That sounds like a segment David Letterman might have featured when he was hosting his late-night talk show. Or maybe something you’d find in the police reports from the Halloween night: “Officer was called to the scene of an exploding pumpkin in Lakeside. Foot pursuit ensued, but the perpetrators, dressed as stormtroopers and ghostbusters, escaped.”

In this case, though, exploding pumpkins had the full support and participation of responsible adults.

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Third-graders at Kilby Shores Elementary School got a Halloween-themed treat on Monday as they watched carved pumpkins ooze blue and red sludge in a stunt that was all about science, even if there weren’t any actual explosions involved.

The pumpkins were carved by from Lakeland High School — participants in a partnership between the elementary and high school that encourages the older students to help mentor the younger ones.

After the carving was done, teachers created a chemical reaction using yeast, warm water, hydrogen peroxide and dish soap. Food coloring was added for some extra fun.

The teachers posed questions for the students about what might happen and about the chemical reaction that was taking place.

For our money, any science experiment that includes the word “sludge” has a lot of potential, and we got kicked out of elementary school many Halloweens ago. We imagine the real elementary students must have enjoyed the demonstration immensely, and we’d bet they went home having learned something science-y without even realizing it.

That’s a great lesson in inspired teaching. We applaud the folks at both Kilby Shores and Lakeland for thinking outside the trick-or-treat bag.