Wild Wonders: Gourd Guts (Decomposition)


Photo: Maine Agriculture in the Classroom

Before You Explore:

Do you think your gourd will look the same one month from now? Check out this cool time-lapse video of an old Halloween pumpkin as it rots and turns into soil. 

What causes the pumpkin to change? Decomposers! These are tiny little trash-eaters (like worms and bacteria) that live in the soil and turn old food scraps into dirt. Let’s see if we can make this happen!

Connect with Nature:

  • With the help of an adult, cut your gourd into 2 or 3 pieces.

  • Go outside and put one piece of the gourd under leaves & dirt close to your home, covered with soil. Place another piece in a sunny place uncovered (place the last piece, if using 3, someplace different).

  • Make your hypothesis: Which piece will decompose sooner? Why?

  • Check on your gourd pieces every week and record what you see in your Observation Journal. What happens? Send a photo to us at !

Dive Deeper!

Decomposers – fungus, bacteria, and invertebrates that live in the soil are nature’s recyclers. They eat all the dead leaves and sticks that fall in the forest every year. If they didn’t break them down so efficiently, the woods would be knee-deep in leaves, twigs, sticks, and more! Head out into the woods or your backyard and search for decomposers. Using the handout provided (Composting Critters Worksheet linked above) as your guide, how many can you find?