By Lani Aquino
Whether the weather feels fall-like or not, the arrival of the autumnal season also means the arrival of pumpkin everything. One would be hard-pressed to pass by porches and produce sections without catching glimpses of these rotund staples that define the season. With pumpkins here, there, and everywhere, finding a place for them in the classroom can be a breeze, and they can serve a wide range of purposes beyond adding some decorative flair.
In the hands of a teacher, a single pumpkin (or 10) can add some fall frenzy to learning. No matter which subject is being covered, adding pumpkins to the materials list is a timely way to add some engagement. There are hosts of resources out there for the choosing, and these are some top picks by subject.
Quantitative & Qualitative Data- Scholastic’s Pumpkin Project has great ideas for getting students estimating, measuring, and discovering math & science in fun ways. The availability of multiple pumpkins allows groups to hone in on the investigation and make comparisons.
Measuring- Pumpkins offer a great opportunity to talk about ways to measure round objects with straight rulers. Students can be tasked with getting creative and/or given the tools and a recording sheet like this one from Little Bins for Little Hands to cover circumference. Students can be asked to measure and chart the height of the pumpkin(s) with a variety of measuring tools/stackers.
Seed Count- The real fun comes when students dive into pumpkins. Seeds from a single class pumpkin can be distributed to individuals or small groups for counting and then collectively determining the overall total. When groups have their own pumpkins, the counts can be compared with predictions made on whether pumpkin shapes and sizes affect seed counts.
Pumpkin Roll- While dessert rolls are a treat, the physical rolling of pumpkins offers a competitive learning treat! Pull out some STEM/makerspace resources and allow students to build ramps for pumpkin rolling. Roll competition can be based on speed or distance (if the same pumpkin is used for each). Smaller and fully rounded pumpkins work best for this activity. Roll trajectory of larger or more misshapen ones could also be an option when using a single ramp.
Pumpkin Drop- This activity has several variations that all have great, scientific takeaways. Students could be tasked with constructing a container allowing a pumpkin to stay intact after being dropped from a designated height. The task could involve constructing a landing spot to keep the pumpkin intact. The task could also be to examine the physics behind a freefall drop and how pumpkin weight, size, and or drop height affect the splatter.
Pumpkin Volcanoes- After all the measuring and scooping is complete, pumpkin shells could have a final servitude activity of housing volcanic eruptions. The STEM Laboratory shares the needed formula for eruption and a few ways to change up this fun activity.
Pumpkin History/Economics- Students could be tasked with investigating the history of the jack-o-lantern and/or any cultural nuances within the festivities surrounding October 31st. What effects do pumpkin and Halloween sales have on the economy? This could lead to some discussion on pumpkin prices, impacts holidays and customs have on the economy, pumpkin uses that don’t involve décor, etc.
Pumpkin People- Pumpkins can be templates for more than just scary jack-o-lantern faces. Students could design pumpkins that represent a variety of historical figures. By avoiding carving and using drawing and props, individuals or small groups could share their knowledge of historical figures and add a short bio to the presentation. These could be used by the science folks for dropping at a later date!
Pumpkin Globes- Pumpkins can become canvases for any variety of activities. Small round ones perfectly lend themselves to the creation of seasonal globes. Ideas for creating these mini (or oversized) globes and other social studies options can be found in Kindergarten Pumpkin Themes with Social Studies.
Word Creators- Mini pumpkins can add a fun twist to a language center. By placing different beginning sounds/letters/blends on the front and back of several minis and then having a second set of minis with ending sounds/letters/blends on either side, a seasonal world builder is born. Students can record constructed words on a piece of paper.
Collages- Pumpkins can be a presentation template for literature study. Students can decorate pumpkins to resemble key characters in novel/story and use a variety of add-on props to display their understanding of character qualities. Literature circles could be tasked with designing a book collage pumpkin for seasonal display to advertise good reads.
Pumpkin Reads- A good book is always a good find, and this list of pumpkin books from We Are Teachers offers 15 such finds. Books about pumpkins are a great way to introduce, close, and add interest to a pumpkin unit. Engaging fiction and non-fiction titles are included on this diverse list.
If you give a teacher a pumpkin, there sure is a lot of learning that can result. Whether it’s a whole unit or a singular lesson, there are a wide variety of ways to bring some seasonal flair to the classroom. A single pumpkin can be a key cross-curricular resource for getting students excited about core subjects and more.
If you enjoyed the thoughts and ideas shared here, check out the trainings and tools (for teachers and for families) that we offer.