In this lesson, students will learn about the life cycle of plants by planting and observing the growth of pumpkins. Students will also learn about Native American uses for pumpkin and squash, before helping prepare a nutritious meal made from pumpkin.
After this lesson, students will be able to:
- Identify several ways Native Americans used pumpkin and contrast/compare that with today.
- Name the stages of the pumpkin lifecycle.
- Sprout and record the growth of their own pumpkin.
- Clean and prep pumpkin seeds for eating.
- Identify 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.
- Prepare a poster with pumpkin history facts to reference during circle
- Pumpkin lifecycle charts
- One display pumpkin, carved in half lengthwise
- Labels for the display pumpkin (seeds, pulp, and stem)
- Three Sisters visual aid (optional)
- An old gourd scoop to show non-edible uses for pumpkin (optional)
- A short story about the life cycle of a pumpkin (recommended)
- Tarp or newspaper (if teaching indoors)
- Several different varieties of pumpkin and squash
- Small bowls for seeds
- Large bowls for cut pumpkin and squash
- A handsink or bucket of clean water for washing hands
- Compost bin for pumpkin pulp
- Potting soil, compost, or worm casting mix
- Watering cans with water
- Pumpkins prepped with the tops cut off (we will plant our seeds in the cleaned pumpkins)
- Students' garden journals (if they have them)
- Find an outdoor space to let a pumpkin decompose. An ideal space will be away from the building (incase the pumpkin attracts unwanted pests) yet still observable to students
We like to teach this lesson during the week of our annual pumpkin patch trip. 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.
Before you begin, collect all lesson materials and prep your cleaning and planting stations.
At opening circle:
- Introduce the lesson for the day.
- Have students help read 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.
- 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.
In the garden:
- Set students up in pairs to clean pumpkins.
- Have the students pull out the pulp using spoons and their hands, and set the seeds aside to dry in a bowl
- To extend the lesson to math students can count their seeds (by tens, etc.)
- When everyone is finished have the students compare the size and amount of seeds between different pumpkin varieties. What did they observe about the inside of the pumpkins?
- Let them draw observations in their garden journals.
- Have students sort seeds into piles for roasting and for planting.
- Roast the pumpkin seeds, or prepare another healthy pumpkin recipe.
- Have the students fill the hollowed out pumpkin cavities with soil. Let each pair plant about 5 seeds in their pumpkin.
- Water the seeds in and place in a sunny location to sprout.
- Show students the Jack-o-lantern in your decomposition station. Have students track its decomposition over the coming weeks.
- In the coming weeks, let students will track the growth of their pumpkins in their garden journals or a in handout.
At Closing Circle:
The students eat and take home foods made from the pumpkins they prepared. (see PDF)