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It's Pumpkin Time

By Tiffani Mugurussa on October 23, 2012
  • Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5

It’s October, fall is here, Halloween is near, all of which means — it’s Pumpkin time!  This month we are diving into pumpkins hands first.  Before my class could fully experience pumpkins, we started out by reading a lot of books.  Last week I shared a few of my favorite fall books. This week I am sharing one more book, specifically about pumpkins, along with some science activities that relate to all of them.



Getting in the Mood

We began our week by reading the story It's Pumpkin Time by Zoe Hall. Later, I will make the book available in the listening center. After reading the story, we made an anchor chart about pumpkins showing what we know about them and what they need to grow.  My students were very excited to share their experiences with me. Many have even planted their own pumpkins in the past. We followed this discussion up with a short sequence activity of how to grow a pumpkin


Estimating Size

I brought several pumpkins of different sizes into the classroom for the students to observe.  We picked the largest one to determine its circumference.  As I passed around a skein of white yarn, the students each cut off a piece hoping it was the exact length to circle the largest part of our pumpkin. After taping their names to their pieces of yarn, we used a separate color for the actual length needed and compared the lengths on our large class graph. We had one student guess exactly!


Will It Sink or Float?

Taking our largest pumpkin and one of our smaller ones, I asked the class to predict whether they would sink or float. Some students remembered our coconut experiment and thought that because the pumpkins were bigger than a coconut, they would sink.  After everyone made and charted their predictions, it was time to fill the container with water and see what would happen. We put in the small pumpkin, and it floated. The students were very excited, but some were still certain that the big pumpkin would sink. They were surprised when I submerged the large pumpkin in the water and it popped up to the surface. We repeated the experiment the following day using pumpkin seeds and, again, students predicted what would happen. Then placing a few seeds in a small container of water, we watched the seeds float to the top.











Experiencing the Pumpkin

I posted a note on our parent communication board asking for pumpkins and received a very generous donation of 11. With help from a wonderful parent volunteer, we cut off the tops of the pumpkins to show the students what was inside. I divided the class into groups of two and let anyone who wanted to stick his or her hand inside to feel around and describe the sensation. After everyone had a chance to feel the "guts," each pair scooped out the seeds and pulp into containers to observe. As they scraped and pulled out the stringy pulp and seeds, I walked about the classroom observing and listening to their conversations.  Some students were "grossed-out" by the entire process, others were so excited they could hardly contain their enthusiasm, and for some it was their very first experience.


Sorting Seeds

Using their fingers, they sifted and sorted through the pulp, pulling out the seeds. Once the seeds were separated from the pulp, the students counted them with their partners into groups of tens. We used clear portion cups to hold the seeds. I made sure to pair students who are unable to count objects to ten with more capable students. We also made a chart as we counted the cups. This was a great opportunity to practice counting by tens and a chance to revisit tally marks. We stopped counting the seeds after we had reached 2,000.  We filled a gallon bag with the seeds.  I took all of the seeds home to wash and cook. We enjoyed the seeds the following day during our snack time.


Growing Our Own Pumpkin

After reading about using a pumpkin as a planter to grow pumpkins, I decided this would be a great experience and a fun science activity to try with my own class. To start, we cut off the top of a pumpkin. Leaving all the seeds and pulp inside, we added some soil and then water. I was afraid to leave the pumpkin outside over the weekend, and this turned out to be a big mistake as the only thing that grew was mold. I wiped off the mold and placed the decaying pumpkin outside our back door and left it.  After doing a little research, I decided to try it again with a smaller pumpkin and less water.  Again, we cut open the pumpkin and added soil, but this time we only added a 1/2-cup of water. We then placed the pumpkin outside our classroom in the sun. Each day we are adding just a little water, no more than 1/2 a cup. With any luck we will have a sprout very soon. Meanwhile, we thought we would observe the decaying pumpkin I had left outside each day to see what would happen.  After only one week of adding the soil, we noticed a sprout!  Now we are waiting for our smaller pumpkin to sprout as well.


Pumpkins Are Everywhere

In math we used pumpkins to create patterns. The most popular one was the AB pattern. After students created their pattern strips, we turned them into headbands.





We also made a sequence book about the life cycle of the pumpkin. Students practiced reading and retelling the story before taking it home to share with their family.




Another favorite daily activity is our pocket chart poem.  This week our poem is about pumpkins, of course. Each day students take turns pointing to the words while read along.


We finished our week with a pumpkin glyph.  The students answered questions about pumpkins to create their glyphs.  






We have had a lot of fun this week while learning at the same time. We will continue to watch our "pumpkin in a pumpkin" grow. Our plan is to transfer it into our new school garden when the garden is complete. I know my students will be talking about these experiences for a long time.  


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