Pumpkins inspire investigations

Although astronomical fall for the northern hemisphere begins when the autumnal equinox occurs on or around September 22,   meteorological seasons vary geographically. October may be when your area “really feels like fall.” Does your school or program mark the season by harvesting from your own garden or by visiting a “pumpkin patch”? Pumpkins are an excuse for an unofficial National Pumpkin Day on October 26, a 2-day festival  and all day “Punkin Chunkin’ affairs before or after Halloween. 

Playing with pumpkins involves children in sensory experiences as they handle pumpkins of various sizes, shapes, and colors. Before pumpkins are cut open to feel the slimy innards and count seeds, they can be weighed, floated, and rolled, introducing concepts of measurement and motion. Adults learn a lot too!

Children may have a hard time saying which of two pumpkins–one taller but thinner and one wider but shorter–is the “biggest.” A discussion leads to understanding that many attributes can be measured. The Erikson Early Math Collaborative website has more resources in their “Idea Library” for engaging children in learning math than a pumpkin has seeds! In “Halloween and Animal Fun While Exploring Big, Bigger, and Biggest” by Lisa Ginet describes how to use children’s literature to begin understanding “bigness.” Use the Idea Library’s Foundational Math Topic: Measurement section to find more ideas illustrated by videos.

What happens to pumpkins that don’t get eaten? In “The Rotten Truth—Discovering Decay!” early childhood educators describe a preschool study that included investigating the needs of living organisms and an important part of the pumpkin story that is often not explored—what happens to pumpkins when they decompose, and why is decay important? The writers also created an e-book, The Rotten Truth, describing and illustrating the study with photo galleries, video, and a description of the authors’ process. It is free from iTunes, for iPhone, iPad, and Mac.

“Teaching Through Tradebooks: Pumpkins” by Karen Ansberry and Emily Morgan is a free article in the October 2008 issue of Science and Children

Which of the USA states harvests the most acres of pumpkins? Take a look at the data from the US Department of Agriculture:

Agriculture: Economic Research Service, Pumpkins: Background & Statistics

Nutrition: SNAP-Ed Connection, Pumpkins

Recipes: Fall is Here! Celebrate with Pumpkin, 5 Different Ways by Corey Holland, RD, Nutritionist Consultant, Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, Oct 20, 2016.


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