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October 9, 2017

Investigating the Wonderful World of Pumpkins

By Sandra Carrillo
Grades PreK–K

    There is something about the magic of autumn — the beauty of the changing colors and the crispness in the air! Autumn also marks the beginning of special events like football season, festive holidays, and let's not forget, it’s also the season of PUMPKINS!

    I absolutely love teaching about pumpkins, because there are so many ways to integrate different content areas. When teaching favorite units, many of us have a toolbox filled with various activities that we tend to pull out year after year.  If you're like me, you have probably found that after awhile, teaching the same lessons in the same way can get boring.

    For example, a traditional lesson on pumpkins might consist of taking a field trip to the pumpkin patch, followed by math and science lessons focused on estimating circumference, height, and weight. For young children, it's always a treat to take a special trip down to the nurse's office or cafeteria and actually weigh the class pumpkin on the big scale! Don't get me wrong — these activities are still very important and almost essential, but it's important to always ask yourself some additional questions, such as: How can I enhance what I am already doing? How can I help my students make personal connections to the content? What are ways that I can build background knowledge for my preschoolers?

    Here are some additional activities to enhance your pumpkin unit that you may like to try:

    My Big World from Scholastic has some great lessons to try when teaching about pumpkins! The October issue is titled "Giant Pumpkins!" Before reading the issue, play Pass the Pumpkin. Bring a few pumpkins to class and pass around a kid-size specimen to get children excited about the topic and tap into their knowledge. Each child should get a turn holding the pumpkin and saying one thing that he or she notices about it. Then reveal the cover of the issue. Ask the question: What's different about the pumpkin in the picture? This activity builds background and helps engage children.

    Another good idea is to have a variety of pumpkins, all shapes and colors, for children to observe and handle.

    The online video included with "Giant Pumpkins!" is entitled "Investigate Pumpkins," which provides children with additional background knowledge.

    Children are asked some very important questions, such as:

    What’s inside a pumpkin?

    Are all pumpkins the same?

    Do you think a small pumpkin could float in water?

    What about a giant pumpkin?

    Here are two activities that you can try after watching the video.

    Science: Sink-or-Float Pumpkin Boats

    Materials:

    • Miniature pumpkins
    • Toothpicks or pipe cleaners
    • Construction paper

    Directions:

    In advance, cut the tops off of a few miniature pumpkins and scoop out the insides.

    Make sails out of construction paper and toothpicks/pipe cleaners. Stick the toothpicks/pipe cleaners into the bottoms or sides of the pumpkins. Ask the children to predict if the pumpkin boats will float. Then put the boats in a tub of water and find out!

    You can also do another prediction and observation. With a regular-sized pumpkin, ask children to predict if the pumpkin will float even though it is much heavier.

    Surprise: it does! Explain that there is a lot of air inside pumpkins. This helps the pumpkins float. You can relate it to how the air inside floaties help children float in the pool.

    Creating a class book is always a treat for children. After conducting the science lesson (Sink-or-Float Pumpkin Boats) spark your preschoolers' imaginations by asking them the question: If you were given a pumpkin, what would you do to make it different? What would you turn it into? 

    Language Arts: "I Turned My Pumpkin Into a..." Class Book

    Materials:

    • Orange butcher paper
    • White drawing paper
    • Crayons and markers
    • Glue

    Directions:

    Create large pumpkins out of the orange butcher paper. Give each student a sheet of white paper. The sentence starter could be: "I turned my pumpkin into a____," but feel free to use any other sentence starter you'd like. Children will create their page with an illustration of their answer and then share and describe what they have drawn. Write down what they say and encourage them to try to write their name. Glue their individual pages on the pumpkin pages you have created and laminate. Once it's finished read the book together. You now have a class book to include in your classroom library, one that I guarantee will be a favorite.

     

     

    In addition, to some great reproducible think sheets that focus on patterns, shapes, and counting, My Big World focuses on the plant life cycle and vocabulary theme words such as: investigate, humongous, giant, plant, flowers, bud, and heavy.

    As you plan your wonderful pumpkin unit, I hope you find these activities add a little something special! I look forward to hearing from you. Please share your thoughts and comments! Happy planning and happy autumn!

    Warmly,

    Sandy

    There is something about the magic of autumn — the beauty of the changing colors and the crispness in the air! Autumn also marks the beginning of special events like football season, festive holidays, and let's not forget, it’s also the season of PUMPKINS!

    I absolutely love teaching about pumpkins, because there are so many ways to integrate different content areas. When teaching favorite units, many of us have a toolbox filled with various activities that we tend to pull out year after year.  If you're like me, you have probably found that after awhile, teaching the same lessons in the same way can get boring.

    For example, a traditional lesson on pumpkins might consist of taking a field trip to the pumpkin patch, followed by math and science lessons focused on estimating circumference, height, and weight. For young children, it's always a treat to take a special trip down to the nurse's office or cafeteria and actually weigh the class pumpkin on the big scale! Don't get me wrong — these activities are still very important and almost essential, but it's important to always ask yourself some additional questions, such as: How can I enhance what I am already doing? How can I help my students make personal connections to the content? What are ways that I can build background knowledge for my preschoolers?

    Here are some additional activities to enhance your pumpkin unit that you may like to try:

    My Big World from Scholastic has some great lessons to try when teaching about pumpkins! The October issue is titled "Giant Pumpkins!" Before reading the issue, play Pass the Pumpkin. Bring a few pumpkins to class and pass around a kid-size specimen to get children excited about the topic and tap into their knowledge. Each child should get a turn holding the pumpkin and saying one thing that he or she notices about it. Then reveal the cover of the issue. Ask the question: What's different about the pumpkin in the picture? This activity builds background and helps engage children.

    Another good idea is to have a variety of pumpkins, all shapes and colors, for children to observe and handle.

    The online video included with "Giant Pumpkins!" is entitled "Investigate Pumpkins," which provides children with additional background knowledge.

    Children are asked some very important questions, such as:

    What’s inside a pumpkin?

    Are all pumpkins the same?

    Do you think a small pumpkin could float in water?

    What about a giant pumpkin?

    Here are two activities that you can try after watching the video.

    Science: Sink-or-Float Pumpkin Boats

    Materials:

    • Miniature pumpkins
    • Toothpicks or pipe cleaners
    • Construction paper

    Directions:

    In advance, cut the tops off of a few miniature pumpkins and scoop out the insides.

    Make sails out of construction paper and toothpicks/pipe cleaners. Stick the toothpicks/pipe cleaners into the bottoms or sides of the pumpkins. Ask the children to predict if the pumpkin boats will float. Then put the boats in a tub of water and find out!

    You can also do another prediction and observation. With a regular-sized pumpkin, ask children to predict if the pumpkin will float even though it is much heavier.

    Surprise: it does! Explain that there is a lot of air inside pumpkins. This helps the pumpkins float. You can relate it to how the air inside floaties help children float in the pool.

    Creating a class book is always a treat for children. After conducting the science lesson (Sink-or-Float Pumpkin Boats) spark your preschoolers' imaginations by asking them the question: If you were given a pumpkin, what would you do to make it different? What would you turn it into? 

    Language Arts: "I Turned My Pumpkin Into a..." Class Book

    Materials:

    • Orange butcher paper
    • White drawing paper
    • Crayons and markers
    • Glue

    Directions:

    Create large pumpkins out of the orange butcher paper. Give each student a sheet of white paper. The sentence starter could be: "I turned my pumpkin into a____," but feel free to use any other sentence starter you'd like. Children will create their page with an illustration of their answer and then share and describe what they have drawn. Write down what they say and encourage them to try to write their name. Glue their individual pages on the pumpkin pages you have created and laminate. Once it's finished read the book together. You now have a class book to include in your classroom library, one that I guarantee will be a favorite.

     

     

    In addition, to some great reproducible think sheets that focus on patterns, shapes, and counting, My Big World focuses on the plant life cycle and vocabulary theme words such as: investigate, humongous, giant, plant, flowers, bud, and heavy.

    As you plan your wonderful pumpkin unit, I hope you find these activities add a little something special! I look forward to hearing from you. Please share your thoughts and comments! Happy planning and happy autumn!

    Warmly,

    Sandy

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