GSB Science Classes Conduct Enzymatic Pumpkin Experiments

Upper School Science classes are getting into the Halloween Spirit while finding a creative way to learn an often complicated biology topic. 

This week, students in Dr. Rossi’s Biology and Honors Biology classes enjoyed a hands-on experiment to get a deeper understanding of catalytic systems and the role enzymes play in driving chemical reactions. The experiment demonstrates the catalyzed decomposition of hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) using potassium iodide (KI) and warm water as a catalyst. As hydrogen peroxide decomposes, the chemical reaction produces water and oxygen gas, though the reaction is normally too slow to be seen under normal circumstances.  

Students learned that by adding enzymes as a catalyst, the activation energy of the reaction lowers, thus accelerating the reaction without the enzyme being consumed in the process. The end result produces a large volcanic, foamy mess. In order to generate some truly picture-perfect reactions, the students carved Halloween-inspired pumpkins to act as containers for the experiments. 

"Getting to do a fun lab with peers was a great way to end the school day,” said Dakauri Pinckney ‘24. “So far this year we’ve talked about different reactions and how they can be facilitated by an enzyme and we got to see that in action today!”  

“The part I liked most about participating in this project was how it was both educational and fascinating while fitting into the upcoming Halloween festivities,” said Peyton Hardy ’24.  

With the experiment directly related to GSB’s Biology curriculum, Dr. Rossi explained to each class that every biochemical reaction that occurs in our cells utilizes an enzyme to facilitate the reaction. Without enzymes, the activation energy would be too high for the cell to function, and thus no metabolic pathways could occur.  

“Anytime we can do an activity that breaks from the traditional ‘chalk talk’ methodology, the students get a higher level of engagement,” said Mr. Rossi.  

“Using their hands, being creative, and using some class time to pay homage to a childhood activity gives them a break, which has a positive effect on other areas of their academic career.” 

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