At The Raincatcher’s Garden we are offering not only our regular 4 activity station field trips, but also shorter, monthly-themed lessons w/follow-up activities that are based upon connections and the cycles of nature. We began tracking these patterns with ”September: Change is Coming” anticipating the turn of the season in the fall garden and planning ahead for spring wildflowers.
Keeping w/in the monthly theme is “October: Harvest, the Last Hurrah” in which we introduced our pumpkin unit, Pumpkin Circle, the Story of a Garden by Mary McKenna Siddals & Pumpkin Book by Gail Gibbons. The title encapsulates the content of the book perfectly. By studying life cycles, we learned about the “seed-to-seed” story of a pumpkin, then, related that to the “seed-to-seed” story of the entire garden.
Pumpkins are historically & culturally significant; they were originally domesticated in North America (9000 year-old-seeds have been found in caves in Mexico) and continue to play an important role in holiday celebrations from Halloween Jack-o’-Lanterns to our traditional Thanksgiving feasts complete w/pumpkin pies, breads, muffins.
Children also love pumpkins for their variety of colors and sizes, some of which are so outlandish and unique. We even created our own “Pumpkin Patch” with specific samples of pumpkins, gourds, and squash.
Factoid: Did you know there was a website with video of Libby’s canned pumpkin that details how “pie pumpkins” were developed specifically for their 16 oz cans? Or, that our beloved tradition of carving Jack-o’-Lantern pumpkins comes from an old fable about a mean, stingy man named Jack who, after his death, was doomed to roam the world carrying a carved-out turnip illuminated by glowing coals, hence, the name Jack-of-the-Lantern or Jack-o’-Lantern?
The most popular of our varieties, hands down, were our gnarly, orangey-green-colored Native American Squash, weighing in at almost 30 pounds, slightly less than the weight of our smallest 3-year-old visitor from The da Vinci School, and the Knuckle Head Pumpkin, a warty orange oval that raised the “Ick Factor” for ugly.
As part of our study of the Scientific Process we used our carving pumpkins for “Pumpkin Math” – estimating & measuring (number of seeds, circumference, weight, lines/creases), recording data (individual charts for ESD Primer class & volunteers’ results for our 3’s & Pre-K groups), then reporting & analyzing our results. Using standard & non-standard measurements, we also compared our weight in pumpkins, estimating first, then using our trusty bathroom scale, & guessing our waist measurements, then tape-measuring to compare that to the circumference of the pumpkin.
One child reported, “I weigh 4 carving pumpkins (8 lbs each) + a Cinderella Pumpkin + a Fairy Tale Pumpkin!” Many of our 3-year-old and Pre-K visitors had smaller waists than our sample pumpkins which averaged 24-27 inches. After all of the slicing and dicing and eviscerating was done, we separated seeds and pumpkin goop. And, we still had survivors which eventually fell to the carving knife.
Later, we enjoyed a treat of toasted seeds (pepitas) and Elizabeth’s delicious pumpkin mini muffins. Our young visitors returned to their respective schools excitedly reporting these facts and more to anyone who would listen.
Pictures by Starla
More about Pumpkin: