By Teachers, For Teachers
Halloween is a great time of year to to learn about pumpkins. Enlist the help of your local farm, grocer, pumpkin patch, or parents to gather a classroom supply of pumpkins. Then use these pumpkins to help sharpen your students' skills in math, observation, prediction, measurement, and writing.
Create the Perfect Pumpkin Patch
Choose a spot in the classroom to store your classroom pumpkins. To create the perfect Halloween pumpkin patch, ask your local grocer if you can have their leftover crates. Then have students decorate these crates with paper leaves and greenery. Display this greenery all around the crates and have students strategically place their pumpkins on and around the crates so it will look like a real pumpkin patch. Store pumpkins in the patch until the first activity is ready to be completed. Tip: Have each student write his/her name at the bottom of their pumpkin.
A pumpkin is a wonderful subject to help students sharpen their observation skills. Challenge students to create a pumpkin journal to record all information and observations. To create a Halloween pumpkin journal, give each student a sheet of orange construction paper and four or five lined sheets of regular paper. To make the journal, have students trace a pumpkin shape onto all of the papers and then cut them out. Then stack the papers and staple together. Once completed, each student can decorate their front cover as they wish.
Whose Pumpkin is it?
Before you get to the pumpkin activities that will damage the pumpkin (like counting seeds), you should first start with a quick observation lesson. Ask students to write a short description of their pumpkin in their pumpkin journal. Encourage them to use descriptive words but not to reveal too much. Then have each student take turns reading their descriptions to the class and challenge their classmates to figure out which pumpkin is theirs. The easiest way to identify each pumpkin is to assign each one a number, this way when students are guessing they can say, "I think you are talking about number ___." Then in their pumpkin journals, ask students to write how many guesses it took their classmates to figure out which pumpkin was theirs. They can also choose a name for their pumpkin and refer to this name when they write in their journals.
Measuring Up the Pumpkins
Have students use their pumpkins to help them complete the following measurement activities:
Have students predict, then measure:
The results should be written in their pumpkin journals. Once this is completed have students graph their results. For this part of the activity students can work alone or in a small group. Ask students to graph and compare the circumference, the height, and the weight of their pumpkin. If students are working in a small group they can compare each topic individually. For example, the title of the first graph would be "Comparing Pumpkins' Circumference." On this graph each student in the group would create a graph showing each group members pumpkins circumference, and so on. If students are working alone, they can create a graph comparing each topic.
Now that students have had the opportunity to observe and measure their pumpkins, it is time to break that pumpkin open! A safe and easy way is for you (the teacher) to create a removable lid for each student. Then students can remove the pulp and seeds and place the seeds into a plastic bag. Students can then store their pumpkin seed bags inside the pumpkin, and replace the lid.
To begin this activity, have students estimate how many seeds are in their pumpkin, and write down their answers in their pumpkin journals. Then, have students count and determine the number of actual seeds that are in their pumpkins, and record that information too. Next, ask students to create a chart comparing their estimated seeds to their actual number of seeds. When the entire class has completed this activity encourage them to share their results with their classmates.
Do you have any pumpkin patch activities that work well in your classroom? Please share with us in the comment section below.
Janelle Cox is an education writer who draws on her 15 years of professional experience in the education system. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Guide to Elementary Education for About.com, where she provides educational information and lesson plans for teachers across the United States.