Students will learn a variety of subjects including history, science, nutrition, and math through the study of pumpkins. Activities include estimating the size and weight of pumpkins, sprouting pumpkin seeds, and making pumpkin pie in a bag.
The Great Pumpkin Story activity sheet
Pumpkins, 1 per group
String, rulers, and scale (for weighing pumpkins; a bathroom scale will work)
Pumpkin Peddlers activity sheet
Plastic cups, 10 per group
Resealable bags, 1 per group
Clear plastic cup (for planting)
Pumpkin Pie in a Bag instructions and ingredients
Essential Files (maps, charts, pictures, or documents)
pumpkin: a large rounded orange-yellow fruit with a thick rind, edible flesh, and many seeds
Did you know? (Ag Facts)
Illinois is the top pumpkin producing state in the nation with nearly 500 million pounds of pumpkins harvested each year.
The size of a pumpkin depends on water, temperature, insects, diseases, pollination, fertility, soil type, plant population and weeds.
Bees and other insects help pollinate the pumpkins. Some insect are harmful and some insects (like bees) are helpful. Farmers try and spray to kill bad insects when there aren’t flowers and good, beneficial insects aren’t present.
Pumpkins are ready to harvest when they are the right color and have the right rind readiness. But remember, they can be a lot of different colors.
Pumpkins can be sold at farmers markets and grocery stores. Many of them are sold to companies like Libby’s to make pumpkin puree.
Background Agricultural Connections
Interest Approach – Engagement
Ask students to draw a picture of what they think a pumpkin looks like. Hold their pictures up and see how many just think it is an orange round with stem on top. Show samples of different pumpkins and how they come in different shapes, colors, sizes etc.
Use the attached Pumpkin Varieties PowerPoint to show pictures of many varieties of pumpkin
After students have observed several different varieties of pumpkin, brainstorm a list of uses for pumpkins on the board.
Activity 1: The Great Pumpkin Story and Pumpkin Predictions
Have students read The Great Pumpkin Story and answer the questions at the end.
Divide the class into groups of four. Provide each group with a pumpkin (do your best to get pumpkins that are quite different from one another).
Ask the groups to estimate the height, diameter, and weight of their pumpkin.
Ask students to guess which group has the largest pumpkin. Which pumpkin weighs the most? Do they think the largest pumpkin will weigh the most? Will the smallest pumpkin weigh the least? Which two pumpkins are the closest in size? Which two pumpkins are the closest in weight?
Next, provide each group with a ruler, some string (for measuring the diameter), and access to a scale (a bathroom scale will work). Ask each group to weigh and measure their pumpkin.
Were their predictions correct?
Activity 2: Pumpkin Peddlers
Part of the botanical definition of a fruit is that seeds will be found inside. Ask your students to predict how many seeds they might find inside their pumpkin.
Hand out the activity sheet Pumpkin Peddlers to each student, and pass out ten cups and one resealable bag to each group.
Using the activity sheet, have each group record a reasonable price for the pumpkin and their estimate of how many seeds the pumpkin will contain.
Place newspapers underneath each pumpkin, and cut off the tops of the pumpkins so that students can dig out the seeds. You may want to provide metal spoons for this. Students should take turns digging out the seeds. As the seeds are removed, other students in the group should clean off the fibers, dry the seeds using a paper towel, and then begin to fill the paper cups with groups of ten. When all ten cups are filled, pour the one hundred seeds into a resealable bag, keeping a tally of how many hundreds are emptied into the bag.
Were their predictions accurate? Did larger pumpkins have more seeds than smaller pumpkins. Did weight have an influence on the number of seeds? You may want to graph the results of each group’s seed count.
Discuss how many pumpkins could be grown from one pumpkin. Help students fill in the rest of their worksheet by calculating how much money their pumpkin could generate by multiplying the price they would sell their pumpkins for by how many seeds were in it.
Activity 3: Sprouting Pumpkin Seeds
Provide each student in the group with a clear cup, a paper towel, some cotton balls, a craft stick, and four pumpkin seeds—the ones they cleaned out in Activity 2 will work just fine. (Try to schedule this activity for a Friday, as the seeds won’t sprout over the first two days).
Students should tear or cut a three-inch wide strip from the paper towel. This strip should be placed around the inside of the cup. Student should trim the towel if there is a lot of excess so that there is only one layer around the inside.
Next, have students fill the center of the cup with cotton balls. Tell them to thoroughly dampen the cotton by setting the cup under a dripping faucet. The cotton will moisten the paper towel. No water should drip to the bottom of the cup.
Ask the students to insert the pumpkin seeds between the cup and the paper towel. You can have them place some of the seeds with the pointed end up and some with the pointed end down.
Label each cup with the group’s name. Set the cups on a sunny windowsill. Instruct groups to water as necessary and to watch for the seeds to grow. You may want them to draw how the seedlings look on each day once they sprout and begin to grow.
Activity 4: Pumpkin Processing
Brainstorm with the class all of the uses for pumpkins. In addition to carving for Halloween, pumpkins are also processed into various food products such as pumpkin pie, pumpkin cheesecake, and more. In fact, the majority of pumpkins grown in the United States are processed into pumpkin puree that is typically canned.
Explain to students the difference between a whole, raw food product (like a pumpkin) and a processed food product, such as pumpkin pie or any other food product made from pumpkin. Use the following diagram:
Use the instructions found in the attached file Pumpkin Pie in a Bag to make pumpkin "pies" for your students.
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