READFIELD — Maranacook Community Middle School students, with help from a Central Maine Power Co. lineman, smashed pumpkins on the school patio Monday morning for science.

Teacher Dan Holman said having students watch as pumpkins of different shapes and sizes were dropped from a bucket truck some 45 feet up puts some “sizzle” into their lessons about Newton’s laws, increasing the likelihood the students will learn, and remember, the physics lessons at hand.

Technically the pumpkins, some of them jack-o’-lanterns so rotten they were starting to lose their shape after sitting around the school for a week, fell to the earth with more of a splat or thud than a sizzle.

But for reasons the middle school students, fresh from learning about Sir Isaac Newton’s three laws of motion, explained, all the pumpkins – from ones larger than basketballs to others as small as baseballs – all seemed to fall at roughly the same rate.

“Because one is bigger, you’d think it’d fall faster,” said sixth-grader Micah Wormell. “But it is resisting more, so they both fall at the same speed.”

He and other students explained that while the larger object has more mass and thus might be expected to fall faster, it also has more inertia to overcome, so absent air resistance as a factor, two objects of different masses fall at the same rate.


From his perch about 45 feet up in the bucket of his CMP truck, lineman Greg Fortin released pairs of pumpkins to their demise below. Each of them hit the cement in an explosion of flying orange pumpkin parts.

Holman, who previously spent classroom time with students explaining Newton’s laws of motion, said the demonstration was meant to keep students interested by giving the lessons some sizzle.

“Physics is about how things move and don’t move,” he said. “The kids can explain it because we take the time and show them how it works out. They see that and understand. Sizzle counts. They’ll come into class excited and leave talking and arguing about (the topic discussed in class). And that’s what any teacher wants.”

Before Fortin arrived in the CMP truck, Holman used balls of different shapes and sizes — and students themselves — to further illustrate Newton’s laws of motion.

Seventh-grader Dana Reynolds explained Newton’s second law of motion, that force equals mass times acceleration, as applied to a heavy bowling ball and a lighter tennis ball.

“If you’re hitting a bowling ball with a tennis ball with the same amount of force, the bowling ball has more mass, so you won’t have as much acceleration,” she said.


Teacher Suzanne Caron said last week in class she could tell Holman’s students were experimenting with Newton’s laws, because “I’ve been hearing bowling balls drop on the floor for a week.”

Before the pumpkins started falling, student Kathlyine Chabot said she was interested to see “what dropping pumpkins from up high has to do with physics.” She correctly predicted it would involve Newton and his experiments involving motion and gravity.

The demonstration was originally planned for last week, but CMP was unable to supply a lineman and bucket truck because of the many power outages in Maine. So some of the pumpkins, which students and staff brought in, sat around long enough so that splattered in a wide circle when they hit the concrete, as about 60 students looked on.

Students shoveled the pumpkin parts into a trash can.

“It all goes into my compost pile, so it’s all good,” Holman said.


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