Pumpkins, Pumpkins Everywhere
- Grades: PreK–K, 1–2
Focus skills: Listening, speaking
What to do: Prepare an autumn storytelling bag by filling a pillowcase with nature finds, classroom items, clothing or accessories, plus one small pumpkin. Make sure there is at least one prop for each child. One by one, have students reach into the bag, pull out a prop, and weave that item into a group story. For example, if the first student picked the pumpkin, he might begin the story with “Long ago, there was a magical pumpkin that loved to tell jokes.” Then the next student would continue with this idea and add details incorporating her prop. Continue until each student has added his or her ideas or until it feels like the story is complete. Preserve the story by recording it on tape and transcribing it.
For math, try: Seed Sense
Focus skills: Estimation, counting
What to do: Select pumpkins of various sizes and display them in the classroom. Working in groups, have students collect data on the weight, height, and circumference of each pumpkin. Then ask students to estimate the number of seeds in each pumpkin and record their guesses on a sheet of paper along with their names. Once all the guesses have been collected, hold a “Counting Day” to tally the seeds. Divide the class into teams to count, record, and report the number of seeds in their assigned pumpkin. As a fun treat, let the student whose guess is closest take home that pumpkin.
For art, try: If Picasso Had Used a Pumpkin
Focus skill: Art appreciation
What to do: Divide students into teams and give each group brushes, tempera paints, a pumpkin, and a reproduction of a famous painting. Provide a wide variety of styles, from Pablo Picasso’s angular shapes to Georges Seurat’s dot-filled compositions. (Use Instructor Masterpiece posters, old calendars, or books.) Before paint touches pumpkin, encourage each group to discuss what they notice about the painting they have been given. Ask students to think about the colors used, the look of the brush strokes, the feeling of the piece, and whether it is abstract or not. Remind them that their goal is not to copy the image onto the pumpkin, but rather to capture the style of the artist in their own unique piece of pumpkin art. When all of the pumpkins are finished, create a gallery featuring the pumpkins and the masterpieces that inspired them.
For social studies, try: Roll That Pumpkin!
Focus skill: Colonial history
What to do: In Colonial times, children would challenge their friends to pumpkin rolling races where the players used large wooden spoons to roll their pumpkins to the finish line. Try the game by marking a starting line and placing a chair or other large marker about 15 yards away. Give each player a small pie pumpkin and a large spoon or broom. When you say, “go,” the players roll their pumpkins around the chair and back to the starting line—no carrying allowed! Use this simple game to launch a whole discussion about the kinds of games children played in Colonial times.
For science, try: Pumpkin Petri Dishes
Focus skills: Making predictions, gathering and recording data
What to do: Prepare the experiment by cutting two pie pumpkins in half. Place each pumpkin half in a plastic bag that is mostly closed (the environment needs to be moist, yet allow some fresh air to enter). Set one bag in a sunny spot, one in a shady spot, one in the refrigerator, and one in a location of the students’ choosing. Ask students to predict which pumpkin will grow the most mold over the course of the experiment. Set aside time each day for students to examine the pumpkin halves and record their observations. Then ask students: Where is the best place to keep a jack-o-lantern in order to keep it from spoiling?
For language arts, try: Ode to a Pumpkin
Focus skills: Building vocabulary, understanding the roles of the five senses
What to do: Fill the classroom with pumpkins of all shapes and sizes and invite students to observe them using all five senses. Ask students to write down as many descriptive words as possible. How does a pumpkin look, smell, feel, taste, and sound? On pumpkin-shaped paper, have the students write pumpkin poems using their descriptive words. Create a “pumpkin patch of poetry” bulletin board so the whole class can enjoy the work of their fellow poets.