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Gourds, go long: Ridgedale Elementary stages annual pumpkin drop

What’s that?

You think you might be in the market for an adept engineer or sharp payload specialist … say, 15 years from now?

Well, don’t go out of your gourd.

Just give Melissa Livengood a call in advance.

The teacher at Ridgedale Elementary School knows a roomful of burgeoning ones.

They’re the third-graders in her class at the school on Goshen Road.

You know: The ones who soared after hitting the ground (relatively) intact Friday morning in the school parking lot.

Or rather, the pumpkin they specially packed, did.

The occasion was Ridgedale’s annual Pumpkin Drop. Each class in the K-5 school got a chance.

Parameters were as easy, as they weren’t.

Students were tasked with configuring an array of materials – pillows, Styrofoam and the like – to go into a cardboard box packed with a pumpkin.

Well, check that. It wasn’t a “box” on this crisp morning.

It was a “Pumpkin Protection Device.”

The idea, said Sheri Pettite, Ridgedale’s principal, was to get the gourds to defy gravity, just enough, to not splat totally, once they hit the parking lot.

Fifth-graders had to go with a 100-foot drop from the basket of a crane, Pettite said. It was 90 feet for everyone else.

Pettite, with all the safety measures in place in the basket, personally send the gourds going from high above the proceedings.

“I’m not afraid of heights,” she said.

Capital City Crane provided both the crane and its operators Vance and Floyd, the principal said.

The duo worked the crane and schooled the students on all the career technical opportunities out there, the principal added.

“So we had that component and all the STEM aspects of the pumpkin drop,” Pettite said, referring to the science, technology, engineering and math required for the lesson plan that came standard with oohs and aahs, and cheers and groans.

As she said, it takes a lot of STEM to keep a full pumpkin – from turning into pumpkin pie-filling at the end.

“Our kids were STEM engineers for the exercise. They worked in teams. They collaborated.”

The payoff: Ms. Livengood’s gourd-warriors walked away with Ridgedale’s coveted Golden Pumpkin Award.

“Bragging rights,” the principal said. “For the rest of the school year.”