If you teach K, or really any early years grade, then you know that October means 2 thinks: Halloween (which I will post about later) and PUMPKINS!!
I’ve done some sort of pumpkin learning every year, so I thought I would share some of the activities I did this year (and a few I haven’t done yet but will be doing soon)!
I love having a variety of different looking pumpkins. This year I went to a local nursery and found some really interesting ones. They had an amazing variety and it was really hard to just come home with a few! I also picked up a couple of “regular” pumpkins at my local grocery store so that we would have a nice mix of different pumpkins.
To start our investigations, I put some of the pumpkins out as a part of a morning tub. With the pumpkins, I also put out black paper and oil pastels. I added magnifying glasses too, but I thought they would be a great invitation for the students to get a closer look – and it was! The kids were SO excited about the pumpkins. There were lots of great conversations about the colours , the part, the shapes, but most of all – the warts!
In addition to having the pumpkins in the morning tub (and having them sitting in a place where the students to could look and touch them throughout the day), I put out a collection of books about pumpkins on our bookshelf for the kids to look at throughout the day. I like to have a balance of fiction and non-fiction books for the students to look at. One of my absolute favourite pumpkin books is Pumpkin Circle: The Story of a Garden by George Levenson. It has amazing pictures and gives a great explanation about how a pumpkin grows. Other great books are The Biggest Pumpkin Ever, A Day at the Pumpkin Patch, The Legend of Spookly the Square Pumpkin, The Runaway Pumpkin, Sixteen Runaway Pumpkins, and Pumpkin Heads.
A few days after we started our pumpkin morning tub, and we had read a couple pumpkin books, we started coming up with questions we had about pumpkins (the thing with asking 5 year olds for questions, you get a lot of statements too, so I added a list of things we already knew about pumpkins). We recorded all of this on chart paper, so we could add to it as we were learning.
One of our books showed someone using a pumpkin as a boat. Being scientists, we decided we needed to test out if this was something that would actually work. We had read that it was possible in a book, but we needed to see for ourselves. We filled a clear bin with water and talked about what what float and sink means. Around 1/3 of my class are EAL (English as an Additional Language), so it was really important to introduce the vocabulary of the experiment. I had the students pass around a plastic boat and a rock. We talked about what we thought would happen to each when we put it in the water, and then we tested it out. I used these two examples to show float (aka it sits on top of the water) and sink (goes to the bottom of the water). Then I passed around one of our pumpkins (everyone was sitting on the floor to make sure the pumpkin didn’t get dropped). After each student held the pumpkin, they used their name magnets to vote whether or not they thought the pumpkin would float.
Then we tested it out! I wish I had pictures of the kids faces as I lowered the pumpkin into the water! They were SO excited and amazed when it floated! Naturally, we then had to test ALL of our pumpkins (including the really big one). It was a loud and noisy 30 minutes – but SO worth it! We talked about how scientists make predictions (our pre-float vote) and that sometimes they are correct, and sometimes they are not – but that’s ok because that is what being a scientist is all about! I’ve done this experiment with K so many times, and every year it is one of my favourite hands on learning activities!
We haven’t done it yet, but next week we will be carving our pumpkins. This is the first year I’ve bought such a variety of pumpkins, so I can’t wait to see what the different seeds look like. When I carve the pumpkins, I usually have the students sit in a circle and open up one pumpkin with them. We pass the pumpkin around so everyone has a chance to look, touch, and smell the inside of the pumpkin. I don’t carve the whole pumpkin while the students sit and watch because, well, it’s not that exciting. What I do is, during play time I sit at a table and carve while the kids play. Those that want to come watch are welcome to. More often than not, there are ones who want to touch the pumpkin guts! It’s SO gross – but they love it! Definitely a fun sensory activity.
The students also had the opportunity to decide what kind of faces were going to be on our pumpkins.
In addition to our pumpkin science exploration, we did some pumpkin art. I found this activity on Pinterest – it’s one of the first things to pop up when you search “pumpkin art”.
I pulled small groups of students during playtime to paint their pumpkin papers. I gave each student a piece of white construction paper. Then I drizzled yellow and red paint on their paper and gave them a brush. I know we could have just used orange paper, but this was so much more fun and exciting for the students. It was great to hear their conversations as they watched the colours mix and make different shades of orange. It was also a good indicator of who knew about colour mixing – as I asked them what colour they were making, and a few answered “purple”… good thing we do a big colour study in Kindergarten!
Once all the papers were dry, it was time to create our pumpkins! In previous years, I’ve just let the kids go at it, the whole class working at the same time… Which can turn out amazingly…but can also result in orange confetti instead of pumpkins! This year, I decided to give a little more direction and a lot less chaos. I called students to come work with me during play time in small groups, 2-3 at a time. Doing it in small groups definitely took a lot longer (3 playtime’s to get all 20 pumpkins made) but I think the final product is way better than in previous year!
On chart paper, I drew 5 different pumpkin shapes – the traditional pumpkin shape, a circle, an oval, a square, and bumpy one. Then on another piece of chart paper, I drew a few different mouth, nose, eye, and stem shapes. A little bit like a menu. The students chose what shape they wanted for their pumpkin and I drew it with black marker on the back of their orange paper. After they cut it out and glued it to their page, they chose the other parts of their pumpkin faces and we did the same on black or white paper. The final touch was to add a vine with green yarn. I can’t wait to get these up on our bulletin board!
This past week, to compliment our learning about pumpkins, we have also been learning the poem Five Little Pumpkins.
It’s a classic and the students always love it! We practiced it daily as a whole class, doing the actions along with the poem, sang along to a fun video on YouTube (as well as an alternate Five Pumpkins song that is really fun), and made our own Five Little Pumpkin books.
Here are the PDF’s I’ve created for the poem and the book:
We’ve been talking a lot as a team about the importance of having students retell stories – so I created these with my Cricut. I’m planning on laminating them and maybe adding some magnets to the back. I think I’ll put them out during play time with the easy readers and see what happens!
This week I also have some morning tubs connected to the Five Little Pumpkins poem. This one is another great idea I saw on Pinterest – “Can you build a gate for the Five Little Pumpkins?”
In the bin I put tongue depressors, clothes pins, spools, and little wooden spoons (the ones that used to come with the little cups of ice cream). It’s so fun to watch the students problem solve making the gates balance and challenge themselves to get as many pumpkins on the gate as they can.
I also put out a Jack O’Lantern face making tub. So easy to prep! I found pictures of pumpkins through google, blew them up to regular paper size, printed them in colour on white card stock and laminated them. Then I added a couple small tubs of black Play Doh (they came in the big Play Doh pack that is sold at Costco before Halloween), and that’s it! The students LOVE making different pumpkin faces.
I think that’s it for now…those are some of my favourite pumpkin activities. I would love to hear if anyone has any great additions to the activities I do – or if you do something different!
Thanks for reading, and as always, if you have any questions leave me a comment!