We passed another cold, rainy, fall day with some pumpkin (pom-pom) flinging fun.
But, maybe I should backtrack a little, so the whole thing makes sense, in an unschooling kind of way, anyway. It's too long and involved a story to really share here, but basically it started with our morning reading of Marianne Hering's Showdown With the Shepherd...
...one of The Imagination Station series, in which the cousins from Odyssey must foil a Medieval villain from changing history by giving the Philistines a catapult to offset David's defeat of Goliath. That led us to watch a quick History Channel video about the type of sling David probably used, and it's effectiveness, which led us in turn to wonder about when catapults were actually invented (somewhere between the 3rd and 4th centuries BC if you can trust StormtheCastle.com, and David's battle with Goliath was around 1022 BC).
Anyway, that led us to look up all the various improvements in the catapult through history, which led us to this (click the link to view it) National Geographic presentation on the modern use of the catapult for autumn pumpkin chucking contests. And that, sounded like fun - if a little wasteful.
Of course, I wasn't going to let the children chuck actual pumpkins around the house, but I was willing to pull out all the orange pom-poms in the craft cupboard, and our old clothespin catapult (click here for instructions on how to make one).
It wasn't long before we had a couple of additional models.
One is a basic sling shot sort of set up, following Instructable instructions, here, but taping all the skewers together instead of using rubber bands, and totally missing the third rubber band to hold the cup in place (my fault, but it still worked, so it's okay). This one was really easy to build, and took only minutes to put together. It proved very good for distance and power, but lacked in accuracy. However, it is possible to load it with multiple pom-poms, which makes it possible to hit a target every once, and a while.
The other is a sort of trebuchet minus the staff sling, that we put together by gluing a rock (with tacky glue, because we didn't have hot glue) to one end of a jumbo craft stick, and a milk cap to the other. Then, we glued the back of the craft stick about 2/3 of the way down, to a wooden skewer, which we set between stacked up clothes pins stabilized on a little box.
It's not exactly a trebuchet, but it does use gravity to gain the force for throwing the pom-pom. It doesn't throw far, or particularly hard, but it is very accurate.