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The Journals are the premier publications for high-quality, hyperlocal news and advertising in Monmouth County, New Jersey

Nov 08, 2017

Fall Tradition at New School of Monmouth County

“Trebuchet Day,” or “Pumpkin Chucking Day,” as it is sometimes called, has become a very enjoyable tradition at the New School of Monmouth County over the past few years. This tradition began when one of the fathers at the school and his two sons built a simple Trebuchet, a popular medieval giant catapult used for hurling boulders at castle walls. The Trebuchet was fashioned from wood and chains with wheels for moving it from one location to another. It worked on a simple lever process, with one long firing arm with the receptacle for holding a boulder (or in some cases, a fireball) and a shorter arm weighted with a number of heavy weights that, when released, cause the longer arm to shoot the ammunition high in the air and over the castle wall.

The family who had made the traditional Trebuchet asked if the school would be interested in firing pumpkins from it the week after Halloween and said he would be happy to transport his catapult to school for the occasion. So began the New School Trebuchet experience.

Since Halloween was over, the local farm was happy to donate leftover pumpkins and each student had his or her pumpkin to be fired in the school’s backyard. Before firing, the pumpkins were weighed and then flags were placed in the ground with the students’ names to indicate where each pumpkin had landed. Distances traveled were charted and compared with relative weights of the pumpkins fired. After a couple more years, the Trebuchet family donated their machine to the school, promising to come each year and help with the firing of the pumpkins. In celebration of the gift, some of the students painted it with bright colors.

As with all new school projects, there was always a lot of discussion about how the experiences can be enriched. A couple of years ago, a group of students and parents built castle walls out of junk boxes as targets for the flying pumpkins and this created some animated discussion among the students as to whether pumpkins that crashed into the walls or the ones that flew over the walls into the actual castle itself were most successful in the warfare!

Last year, which marked the fifth year of this annual event, the teachers and students decided to make it a more involved project and put the students together in small cross-age groups, with just

one or two pumpkins per group. Each group had to weigh and measure the height and circumference of their pumpkins, then name and decorate them. They also had to research the history of the Trebuchet and draw diagrams as to how it worked. As before, the pumpkins were fired and the distance traveled was measured, but because of decorating and naming their pumpkins, some of the students were reluctant to sacrifice them. However, they resolved this by either trading their pumpkin for one they were less emotional about or creating a graveyard where smashed pumpkins could be laid to rest. As a final caveat, one older student whose pumpkin had landed at a great distance with just one big crack in it declared it to be the winner and made a celebratory pie from the remains!