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Pumpkins fly high, fall hard at Hite-Saunders

Nov. 14, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- The fruit was flying at Hite-Saunders Elementary on Tuesday for the school's annual pumpkin drop.

The goal for students was to protect their pumpkins by designing a package which would allow a pumpkin to sustain a 50-foot drop from the Green Valley Volunteer Fire Department's ladder truck. However, many didn't make it, said fourth-grade teacher Kristen Cooley, who organizes the drop each year.

The event was originally scheduled for Oct. 30, but snowfall from Superstorm Sandy forced schools to shut down. She said many pumpkins remained inside their protective chambers and may have softened. In addition, they also moved the landing tarp from the grass to the pavement, making for a harder landing, she said.

Eight did manage to stay intact, including some packaging made by individual fourth-grade students and some packaging made as a class project from other grades. Eileen Marinacci's fifth-grade class won the class competition. And Seth Glazer, Brigit Wells and Kaiti Swann finished first, second and third, respectively, in the individual category.

Whether the pumpkins survived or not, Cooley said it's about having fun while teaching science.

"They do the research and have to take into account the temperature, wind and the height of the fall," she said. "They have to determine what variables will keep a pumpkin intact and toward the bullseye."

Students in Shauna Fields' second-grade class couldn't wait to see if their pumpkin would survive the fall. They put it in a Styrofoam cooler and surrounded it with Styrofoam peanuts. They also made a parachute out of heavy plastic to help slow it down.

Though there wasn't much wind, their device floated into a pine tree and fell to the ground. But the pumpkin survived, to the delight of the kids. Fields, who wanted to keep the pumpkin for the class, said the whole process was fun and educational.

"This is my first year, so I didn't know much about (the pumpkin drop), but the kids did," Fields said.

Fifth-grader Mikaela Shockley said it was fun to work on the pumpkin project for the last time and will always remember how much fun it was.

"I hope I will remember it when I'm older," said Shockley, who won second place last year. "I have had so much fun doing this."