If you have a pumpkin, you can have a quick, seasonal lesson.
And, really, at this time of year there’s no reason not to have a pumpkin.
Pumpkins are a variety of squash, related to cucumbers. They are natives of North America, but now are grown on all six inhabited continents.
Native Americans ate pumpkins roasted and dried. Early European Americans ate them baked, put the leaves in their salads, and fried the blossoms.
Now that we have that clear, here are some quick, no-prep ideas for using these jolly vegetables in the classroom:
- Bring several pumpkins to class and have students write descriptions of their favorite. Remind them to include lots of sensory detail. Then have students read their descriptions to the class and see whether their descriptions are clear enough to allow the class to guess which pumpkin is being described.
- Learn the nursery rhyme “Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater.” Here it is:
“Peter, Peter, pumpkin eater,
Had a wife and couldn’t keep her,
Put her in a pumpkin shell,
And there he kept her very well.”
Have students memorize the rhyme, use it to practice the letter P, or introduce the “-ell” word family.
- Read “Cinderella” and design a pumpkin coach. If practical, vote on the designs and turn the class pumpkin into a replica of the winning design. You can keep this idea simple, though, by just displaying all the great designs. This would also be a great time to use SketchUp.
- Measure the pumpkin. Depending on the class level, this is your chance to discuss diameter, radius, and pi. Pumpkin pi.
- Weigh the pumpkin. Take estimates from students first and graph the results. For the youngest classes, use a Graphing Pocket Chart and divide the answers into “greater than” and “less than” the precise amount, labelling the columns with the corresponding symbols. Older students can chart the distance of each guess from the correct answer, the percentage over or under, or do a statistical analysis of the estimates.
- Cut the pumpkin open and take out the seeds. Plan ahead for a little mess, here, with newspapers and smocks for the youngest students. Estimate the total number of seeds before cutting, and allow revisions of the estimate after the first cuts are made.
- Have students count out the seeds they find in groups of ten. Then count the groups aloud.
- Ask students whether they think a pumpkin will float. Tally their answers before testing. Ask for reasons for their guesses. Help students formulate a statement of a hypothesis. If there are different hypotheses present in the classroom, have students choose sides and write their hypotheses on sentence strips before testing.
- If the entire class expects that the pumpkin will float, use the question, “Which way will the pumpkin float? Stem up, down, or sideways?” Continue with the same activities.
- If possible, reformulate the hypothesis after testing one pumpkin, and then check your results with another pumpkin.
- Borrow a broom to play a colonial game! Use the broom to sweep the pumpkin down a hallway, sidewalk, or other defined pathway. If you have multiple brooms and pumpkins, make teams and have a relay race. (The pumpkins tend to behave unpredictably when being “swept,” which makes this a fun and surprising game.)
- Set up a pumpkin obstacle course, with pumpkins to jump over or thread the way through, and race against a Stopwatch.
- Use “Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater” as a jump-rope rhyme.