Cool as a Cucumber

How do you make STEAM on the Ridge the coolest place in town when it’s the last Tuesday in July? In Iowa? We’ve worked with the South Central Iowa STEM region for several years, and they invited me and Shelly to bring an activity for this event at Oakridge Neighborhood Services.

We knew we had to come up with something cool, and we did. Cucumbers!Ashley and Shelly at STEAM on the Ridge

Did you know that on average the temperature inside a cucumber is 20 degrees cooler than the temperature outside? Knowing this, we figured cucumbers would be the perfect STEAM snack on a hot Iowa day!

The event focuses on Science, Technology, Engineering, (Art), and Math. Our challenge was to come up with an activity and a snack that was STEAM-focused, fun, AND engaging for school-aged kids. On summer vacation!

After some brainstorming, we decided we needed the help of the coolest veggie we could think of. You got it, that would be cucumbers. What’s better than learning about food AND being able to eat the subject at the end of your learning?

We taught the kids how cucumbers grow, and the names of all the different parts of the plant. Lots of the kids already knew how cucumbers grow because they were growing them at home with their families. We learned as much as they did!

Once we’d talked about cucumbers, we divided half a cucumber among the members of the group. We asked them to guess how many seeds were in their slice of cucumber. To find out if they guessed right, they used several different ways to estimate the number of seeds.

Some counted the seeds they could see on the top and bottom of the cucumber slice. Others held slices up to the sun to get a better look, and some took a small bite to expose the seeds in the middle. Then we added their total numbers of seeds to find out just how many seeds are in half a cucumber. Multiply by two, and you have the number in a whole cucumber.

We graphed the results on a histogram, and after much anticipation, we ate our cucumber slices with a bit of Tajin spice–YUM! Nothing wrong with adding a little heat to a cool cool cucumber.

Take another look at the three paragraphs above this one, and you’ll find some of the steps of the scientific method.

Bowl of garden veggiesAnd now you know that “cool as a cucumber” really IS cool–20 degrees cooler than the temperature outside the cucumber. This made cucumbers the perfect STEAM snack on a hot Iowa day!

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