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Have Some Halloween STEM Fun With Pumpkins

Image of a Halloween pumpkin

Pumpkins are one of the most well-known symbols of Halloween and of Autumn, but how did they become so popular?

In this blog, we’re going to look at why pumpkins became associated with Halloween and how you can have some Halloween STEM fun with them!

How did pumpkins become associated with Halloween?

The association of pumpkins with Halloween started as an Irish myth about a drunken farmer called Jack. The legend goes that he wanted a drink but didn’t have any money, so he asked the devil if he would turn into a coin so that he could buy one. But instead of buying a drink, Jack kept the coin next to his silver cross. This meant that the devil wasn’t able to change back, and he was furious.

Jack played even more tricks on the devil in the following years and when he died, the story goes that the devil wouldn’t allow him into hell. Instead, he sent Jack’s ghost off with nothing but a piece of coal to light his path. Jack carved out a turnip and placed the coal inside of it to make a lantern, and his ghost became known as “Jack-o-lantern” (Jack of the lantern). The myth said that his ghost still roams the earth today (maybe don’t tell the kids that part!)

The myth led to people in Ireland, Scotland, and England making their own turnip lanterns to ward off evil spirits.

When many Irish people migrated to America, they took their lantern traditions with them, and in time, they started making the lanterns out of pumpkins. This is why we carve and light pumpkins to this very day.

Have some Halloween STEM fun with your pumpkin

Make your pumpkin glow GREEN

Pumpkins look great when they are lit up and while we all love a candle or tea light, what about making your pumpkin glow green by using a glow stick?

Just activate the stick and drop it in to the pumpkin or secure it to the inside of the lid if you want it to be hidden.

The science of glow sticks: how do they work?

Glow sticks give off light when two chemicals mix together. This causes a reaction. You’ll notice that most glow sticks have two separate compartments, a small inner container and an outer container, each of which contains a chemical.

Bending the glow stick causes the inner container to break and release the chemical inside so it mixes with the chemical in the outer container. This is what makes it glow!

Make a yummy pumpkin cake

Baking is also a fun STEM activity. Kids will develop their maths skills with all that weighing and measuring, and when the ingredients are mixed and the cake cooks, it’s chemistry in action!

What you’ll need:

For the cake

300g self-raising flour

300g light muscovado sugar

3 tsp mixed spice

2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

175g sultanas

½ tsp salt

4 eggs, beaten

200g butter, melted

zest 1 orange

1 tbsp orange juice

500g (peeled weight) pumpkin or butternut squash flesh, grated

For drenching and frosting

200g pack soft cheese

85g butter, softened

100g icing sugar, sifted

zest 1 orange and juice of half

How to make it:

STEP 1

Heat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4. Use butter to grease a 30 x 20cm baking or small roasting tin and line it with baking parchment. Put the flour, sugar, spice, bicarbonate of soda, sultanas, and salt into a large bowl and stir to combine well. Beat the eggs into the melted butter, stir in the orange zest and juice, then mix with all of the dry ingredients till everything is combined. Stir in the pumpkin. Pour the batter into the tin and bake for 30 mins, or until the cake feels golden and springy to the touch.

STEP 2

To make the frosting, beat together the cheese, butter, icing sugar, orange zest, and 1 tsp of the juice till the mixture is smooth and creamy, then set it aside in the fridge. When the cake is done, let it cool for 5 mins then turn it onto a cooling rack. Prick it all over with a skewer and drizzle the rest of the orange juice over it while it’s still warm. Leave it to cool completely.

STEP 3

Beat the frosting a little to loosen it, then using a palette knife, spread the frosting over the top of the cake. If you’re making the cake ahead of time, keep it in the fridge then take out as many pieces as you want about half an hour before serving. The cake should keep for up to 3 days in the fridge if it’s covered.

Whatever you are doing this Halloween, you can make some time for STEM fun!

Stay safe, everyone.

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