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In this lesson, students learn a brief history of pumpkin and squash in Native American history. They will help prep a variety of pumpkins and squash for cooking. Students will learn the life cycle of plants based on a pumpkin by planting their own seeds and use scientific methods to question, hypothesize, observe and record outcomes. As a sidebar lesson they will also take the leftover pumpkins to set in the garden to observe the aging and decomposition.
Identify several ways Native Americans used pumpkin and contrast/compare that with today
Recall and name the stages of the pumpkin lifecycle.
Sprout and record the growth of their own pumpkin
Know how to clean and prep pumpkin and seeds for eating
Recall some terms like hypothesis, symbiotic, germinate, pollinate and disintegrate
Taste the pumpkin they prepared in a healthy way.
Observe the natural process of Aerobic activity.
Share, collaborate and document findings.
Tarp or old paper (optional) you might want to be outdoors
Several different varieties of pumpkin and squash
Small bowls for seeds
Large bowls for cut up squash
A bucket of water with sponges for cleaning hands
Compost bucket for pumpkin pulp
Compost, worm casting mix or potting soil
Watering cans with water
We will use the cleaned pumpkins to plant into like pots so they should be prepped by cutting lids
Cut 1 extra pumpkin in half to show the parts of the inside (later you can use it to roast)
Labels for the cut pumpkin
Students Garden journals if they have them
We like to plan this lesson a day or so after we have our annual farm trip to pick pumpkins. This way the children have observed the end of the process before they begin it again with their own project. They have also observed and experienced the environment the pumpkins were grown in.
I have a Three Sisters companion planting chart on the wall showing squash as one of the three, along with corn and beans. I have also prepared a poster with pumpkin history facts to reference during circle.
We have saved an old gourd scoop to show non-edible uses.
Prep in the Garden:
a place for the childrens planted pumpkins cleared
a long-term space away from building for the pumpkin to decompose that is still observable (It might attract unwanted pests)
tables set with tarps and other materials
I have several pumpkin lifecycle charts from previous years for the children to handle during the session. (seePDF)
We also may read a related book earlier in circle time, like Title: Pumpkin Circle: The Story of a Garden
Author: George Levenson
Illustrator: Shmuel Thaler
ISBN: 1-582460043 (hardcover)
ISBN: 1-58246078 (paperback)
Grade Level: 1-4
Author: Jeanne Titherington
Illustrator: Gail Gibbons
Introduction at circle:
Show some of the pumpkins and squash you have gathered and your props as you introduce the project.
Have student help by pointing to pumpkin facts from the prepared poster or as a variation, a child can take the "role" of a Native American and using the facts answer questions from the teacher and other students. Like planted in three sister planting to increase yield, used the shells as bowls, (seePDF)
Ask the children to make a hypothesis about what's inside the pumpkin
Show the cut pumpkin and point out the parts pulp, seeds, and stem. If you have made labels you can label them together. Ask them if they were correct with their hypothesis.
Outside set up the children in pairs to clean the pumpkins:
Have the students pull out the pulp using spoons and their hands.
Sort the seeds from the pulp and leave to dry in a bowl
To extend the lesson to Math they can count their seeds- by 10s etc.
When everyone is finished have the students compare the seeds sizes, amounts between pumpkin varieties. What observations did they have about the inside of the pumpkins?
Let them draw observations in their garden journals
Have any early finishers help you cut some squash for roasting. You can also carve a jack lantern to be the one to decompose
Gather up the seeds to roast from the ones to plant
Have the students hypothesize what kind of pumpkin will grow
Let them take turn telling what things the plant will need
Review the "Needs of Plants Chart" (1) Light (2) Water (3) Soil (4) Air
Have the students fill the pumpkin cavities with soil
Let them take turns placing in 5 or so seeds
Water the seeds in and place in a sunny location to sprout
The students will track the growth in their journals or a handout (see PDF)
At Closing Circle:
The stundents eat and take home foods made from the pumpkins they prepared. (see PDF and recipe section)