The Biggest Pumpkin
What It Teaches: Counting, comparing, classifying, subtracting
What You Need: The Biggest Pumpkin Ever by Steven Kroll; at least five pumpkins of different sizes, including one or two mini-pumpkins; cut-paper shapes of different sizes
What to Do: Read aloud The Biggest Pumpkin Ever. Discuss the themes of the story—sharing, working together. Display five pumpkins in a row, not in size order. Ask: Which pumpkin would win the contest for being the biggest? Which pumpkin is the smallest? Work together to put them in size order. Invite children to predict which pumpkin is the heaviest and which is the lightest. Allow them to pick up the pumpkins (carefully!) to test their predictions. Out loud as a class, count the pumpkins. Take one away. Ask: Now how many are there? Continue until there are no more pumpkins. Children can glue cut-paper shapes to the pumpkins to turn them into class jack-o’-lanterns.
What It Teaches: Counting, subtraction
What You Need: Chart paper, markers, construction paper, Velcro strips, laminating machine
What to Do: On a sheet of chart paper, write this poem: “Pumpkins, pumpkins, going fast / Pumpkins, pumpkins, will not last / How many pumpkins will you pick?” Draw a pumpkin vine below the poem. Make it as elaborate as you like. Laminate the chart. Separately, create at least 10 small construction-paper pumpkins and laminate them. (If you’ve got a paper-cutting machine, it should include a pumpkin template.) Add Velcro to the pumpkins and to the vines of the chart. Attach the pumpkins to the chart. Have children count the pumpkins. Then remove a few and count again. Use the chart to practice writing subtraction sentences.
Our Pumpkin Patch
What It Teaches: Working with shapes, fine motor skills
What You Need: Construction paper: 4"x4" green squares, 8"x4" black rectangles, 4"x4" yellow squares, 10"x10" orange squares; school glue
What to Do: Give each child one green square, two black rectangles, and one yellow and one orange square. Have them tear the green square into a rectangle. Then have them tear two black triangles from the rectangles. Have them tear the yellow square into a circle. Finally, have them tear an orange circle from the square. Tell them that the orange circle is a pumpkin. Invite them to create a face on the pumpkin using the other shapes. When they are happy with the faces they’ve made, pass out the glue. Display your jack-o’-lanterns on a pumpkin patch–themed bulletin board.
What it Teaches: Sorting, patterns, classifying
What You Need: Small construction-paper pumpkins in different colors (You can also use Halloween-themed mini-erasers or dried pumpkin seeds colored with food dye.)
What to Do: Give each child an assortment of paper pumpkins of the same size but different colors. Have them count the pumpkins, then sort them by color. Have them create simple patterns using the pumpkins. You can also use the shapes to make pictographs showing the different colors of pumpkins.
Pumpkin Life Cycle
What It Teaches: Life cycle, changes in matter and color
What You Need: Medium-size pumpkin, knife, large spoon, magnifying glass or microscope, large, clear plastic container, chart paper, markers
What to Do: Discuss the life cycle of plants, relating pumpkins to, for example, flowers, and how, after they’re picked, they slowly lose their petals and begin to decay. Then, take the pumpkin and cut it open. Have each child or group of children scoop out some pulp and seeds. (Save the seeds for math and cooking activities.) Cut the pumpkin into large chunks and place it in a large, clear container. Over the next month, record the changes in shape, smell, color, etc. that you and your students notice. Take photos or have the children draw pictures. Bonus: Before you throw out the pulp, have children look at it under a magnifying glass or microscope and record their observations using words and pictures in a science discovery journal.