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Saturday, October 7, 2017

Shrunken Heads Halloween Science Experiment

If you are looking for a cool Halloween science project that sounds gruesome but really isn't, then you should try making shrunken heads! We experimented with making shrunken heads out of apples and potatoes. You may have seen dried apple heads used in fall decoration before, but have you ever made one? We wanted to know if you could make them out of something other than apples, and how the process worked.

By designing, carving, preserving and drying out produce into these funny little Halloween decorations you can incorporate some art into a science investigation, adding some STEAM to your curriculum at home or school. This open-ended experiment is also a great way to allow your students or children to design their own investigation about food preservation, bacteria and enzymes!
Halloween Science Experiment STEAM activity

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How to Make Shrunken Apple and Potato Heads


First, we'll give you the directions we followed to make our shrunken heads. There are many ways you can complete this investigation, so read on to find out what worked and what didn't, further experiment extensions, and the science behind this project.

You will need:

 

How to Make a Shrunken Head


Shrunken Head Halloween Science Experiment STEAM Activity

First, we peeled the apples and potatoes. We found directions that said to core the apples from the bottom. We did this, but would like to try it next time without doing so. You'll see why below!

Next, we made a solution of 1 cup lemon juice, and 2 Tablespoons salt. After the apples and potatoes were peeled, we popped them in the solution quickly to keep any browning from happening before they were carved.


Then we carved faces into the apples and potatoes. Carving pumpkins is one of my favorite parts of Halloween, so designing these miniature versions was really fun!

Shrunken Head Halloween Science Experiment STEAM Activity

Halloween Science Activities
Shrunken Head Halloween Science Experiment STEAM Activity

Once the apples and potatoes were carved, we soaked them one at a time in the lemon and salt solution for one minute on each side. Then set them on a towel and pat the excess liquid off.

Shrunken Heads Halloween Science Experiment STEAM Activity

Next we needed to dry and shrink our apple and potato heads. The options are setting them in a warm dry place for a couple of weeks until they shrivel, or put them in the oven at low heat for a long time. We opted to dry them in the oven. Against our better judgement, we took some online advice and loosely wrapped the apples and potatoes in aluminum foil, and put them in the oven at 200 degrees for several hours, checking every hour or so.

The foil kept too much heat and moisture in, and one of our apples quickly turned into mush! It was a small apple, so this could also be another reason this happened. We kept the foil around the "heads" but opened it so that some of the moisture escaped.


Our potatoes were unscathed, but the larger apple had a sunken look as the bottom got pretty squishy. This is also why next time we might try to do this without taking the apple cores out. There wasn't much support for the apple in the oven. We'd also like to try air dry them as well.

Shrunken Heads Halloween Science Experiment STEAM Activity

https://steamkidsbooks.com/product/steam-kids-halloween-ebook/?ref=26&campaign=halloween2017

Shrunken Heads Halloween Science Experiment STEAM Activity

We knew they were done once the apple was spongy and shriveled, and the potatoes had grown very hard.

You can then decorate the shrunken heads any way you want! We added just a few little marker highlights to our potato heads. They came out pretty cute! You could add hair, hats, or even make some fun food sculptures with them!

Shrunken Heads Halloween Science Experiment STEAM Activity

The Science of Shrunken Apple and Potato Heads


Drying fruit and vegetables is a method of food preservation that has been used for a long time. In this experiment, we helped to preserve the apples and potatoes with lemon juice and salt. There are many other food preservatives that you could try in an experiment like this. Can you design a different experiment using another preservative?

Shrunken Heads Halloween Science Experiment STEAM activity

If you're looking for another great apple preservation experiment, check out this one we published featuring the Zoey and Sassafras book, Monsters and Mold.

You probably already knew that lemon juice keeps apples from turning brown once they are sliced, but how does this work? Enzymes are released from the apple when you slice into it and break the apple's cells. The enzymes react with the oxygen in the air, and the apple begins to brown. It doesn't take long for bacteria to settle on exposed fruit and begin the decomposition process.

Speaking of decomposition, you'll definitely want to try this Pumpkin Jack experiment with your Jack-o-lantern this year! 

Halloween Science Activities
Lemon juice is acidic and by adding it to the apple, you lower the pH of the apple. The acidity prevents the enzymes from reacting, and helps prevent bacteria from settling in.

Salt helps preserve food because it lessens the water available in the food for microbes to grow in. The combination of the two ingredients used in the experiment help to prevent the apples and potatoes from rotting and from remaining too wet.

What other food preservatives, or types of fruit and vegetables could you carve to create shrunken heads?

Extensions for this Halloween Science Experiment


This project led to all sorts of new questions. Here are some things we are wondering:
  • How would the experiment go differently if we hadn't cored the bottom of the apple?
  • Would air drying the apples and potatoes resulted in a different effect?
  • What other preservatives we try?
  • What would happen if we left the apple and potato heads in a cup of salt for a few days? 
  • Could we dry the heads by sticking them in a cup full of rice for a few days?
  • What other fruits and vegetables could you "shrink"?
We'd also like to try decorating and making some cool Halloween art with our shrunken heads.


STEAM Saturday: Halloween STEAM Activities 

 

Halloween STEAM Activities for Kids

The first Saturday of every month we like to get together with some of our blogger friends to share some awesome STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) activities with you. This month they are all Halloween themed!

Dry Ice Bubble Crystal Ball :: Science Kiddo
Halloween Pumpkin Slime :: Figment Creative Labs
5 Little Pumpkins STEAM Activity :: Preschool Powol Packets

STEAM Kids Halloween Activities


Looking for more excellent Halloween STEAM activities? Click the image below to learn more about STEAM Kids Halloween.

STEAM Kids Halloween activity book

Friday, September 29, 2017

Harness the Power of Nature this Fall!

What is not to love about fall? Crispy colored leaves on the ground, acorns, caterpillars, apples, pleasant weather...I could go on and on! It's the perfect time to get your children or students learning in nature.

Nature is a powerful teaching tool. It inspires kids to ask new questions, explore things they have not seen before and spending time outside has been shown to benefit kids overall health and learning. I've pulled together a bunch of resources to help you teach your students outside this fall. From pumpkins and apples to leaves and twigs, scavenger hunts to garden harvests, you'll find all the ideas you need to provide a nature-rich learning experience for your classroom or homeschool.

Fall Nature Lessons Science Experiments Activities

This post contains affiliate links, please see disclosures for more information.

Interdisciplinary Nature Themed Curriculum 

Fall Nature Lesson Plans

I'm really excited about the Seasons School Autumn Workshops. This nature-based curriculum is perfect for early childhood or elementary students. You can choose from "Apples and Pumpkins" or "Twigs and Leaves" and each includes all the materials you need to hit the ground running. The program incorporates English Language Arts, Math, Science, Art and play with nature at the heart of it all.

You can learn more about Seasons School Autumn Workshops here, or click the image below.
https://transactions.sendowl.com/stores/7449/28393

Observe Nature on a Scavenger Hunt

Get outside and put those powers of observation to good use. So many changes come with the turn of the season, there is a lot to see out there! Try one of these ideas:

Fall Nature Scavenger Hunts

Create Nature Art

Take advantage of those fall colors and the abundance of leaves that have dropped to the ground to create some great nature art. In choosing natural supplies for art pieces, students really take a closer look at these items than they might otherwise.

Nature Patterns STEAM Activity

Nature Symmetry Skills STEAM Lesson


A great way to guide these projects is with this nature printables pack. You can see how we've used our copy here. It is awesome not only for creating beautiful art pieces, but also mastering early math skills like symmetry and patterning.


Nature Patterning for Early Childhood Education

https://transactions.sendowl.com/stores/7006/28393

Study Animal Behavior in Fall 

In the fall some animals migrate, some bulk up for the winter. Explore fall animal behavior with these ideas:

Fall Animal Behavior Lesson Ideas

Learn with Fall Leaves

Leaves are in abundance on the ground and changing colors on the trees. Try these activities with fall leaves.


Backyard Science ebook
Fall Nature Lessons Activities

 

Science with Pumpkins and Apples! 

Experiment with some of nature's bounty this fall. Here are three easy inquiry science lessons that use pumpkins and apples!

Apple and Pumpkin Science Activities

Halloween Science Activities
Autumn Science Nature Learning Ideas