Pumpkins Aren’t Just for Carving!

Pumpkins Aren’t Just for Carving!

Grade Level:

3-5 th grade

Time:

90 minutes

Purpose:

Students will get a broader understanding about agriculture and the use of pumpkins. Students will learn about the lifecycle of the pumpkin and the pumpkin industry. Students will practice math skills with measurements and make a pumpkin pie in a bag.

Materials:

  • Enough mini pumpkins for a classroom of students
  • One large pumpkin to be carved
  • Sharp knife
  • Spoon or scoop
  • Newspaper
  • Several examples of pumpkins (white, blue, big, small, oval, dark orange, light orange, etc.)
  • Jar of pumpkin seeds from a pumpkin
  • Note cards for each students
  • Ingredients for Pumpkin Patch Pie
    • 1 gallon Ziploc freezer bag
    • 1 quart Ziploc bag
    • 2 2/3 C cold milk
    • 2 packages (4 serving size) instant vanilla pudding mix
    • 1 can (15 oz) solid-pack pumpkin
    • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
    • ½ tsp ground ginger       
    • Graham crackers crushed
    • 25 small cups
    • 1 can whipped topping
    • 25 spoons

Suggested Companion Resources

  • Too Many Pumpkins by Linda White

Vocabulary

  • Estimate – to form a general idea about the value, amount, size or cost of something
  • Pollinate (pollination) – to give a plant pollen from another plant of the same kind so that seeds will be produced
  • Fertility – the ability to produce young
  • Frost-sensitive plant – plant does not do well in temperatures below freezing and can be damaged by frost
  • Pumpkin hill – small mound of soil in which pumpkin seeds are planted

Interest Approach or Motivator

Discuss where products on grocery shelves come from. Almost all products start out in a farmer’s field. Pumpkins are harvested in the fall. Many are used to carve and make jack-o-lanterns for Halloween. But, many more are cooked down and made into pumpkin puree that can then be used in Thanksgiving pumpkin pies.

Background – Agricultural Connections

  • Illinois is the top pumpkin producing state with nearly 500 million pounds of pumpkins harvested each year.
  • Pumpkin growers need to know what kind of soil pumpkins need, what kind of fertilizer to give them, how much water they need.  Size 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.
  • Harvesting of pumpkins. 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.

Procedures

  1. 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.
  2. Discuss carving for Jack-O-Lanterns.  Let adult helper begin to carve the pumpkin while you talk about some of the things involved in growing pumpkins.
    1. All farmers have same things to think about when planting (growing time from plant to harvest)
    2. Preparing the soil
    3. Buying the seed
    4. Planting the seed and knowing when to fertilize, water, etc. to make it produce the best
    5. Knowing the market
    6. Realizing the risk of raising almost any crop – too much rain, too little rain, bugs, bad seeds, etc.
  3. Discuss pumpkin planting with students and incorporate math skills.
    1. Pumpkins should not be planted in the spring until the soil is warm and all danger of frost or severe chilling is over.  That is about the middle of May most years. 
    2. It takes 120 days for a pumpkin vine to produce mature pumpkins. Have students calculate how many months that is.
    3. Timing is very important because pumpkins are frost-sensitive plants.  Seeds should be planted four feet apart, allowing six feet of space between rows, to give them plenty of room to grow.  Have a student come up and stand in a spot to represent a pumpkin hill.  Then talk about the measuring process.  Without a yard stick or tape measure have students estimate six feet. Discuss what an estimation is. Estimate five hills that are all four feet apart in rows that are six feet apart. Have students stand in each spot to represent the hills.
    4. Pumpkins need plenty of room to grow because two to three pumpkins grow on a vine, and each vine may reach 15-20 feet in length.  However, not every seed will develop, so extra seeds need to be planted in each hill.
  4. Have a jar of seeds and let them guess the number of seeds in the jar and write it down (Presenter should know the number of seeds for the next part)
  5. Total seeds. If every seed in this jar would grow 2-3 pumpkins how many pumpkins would we get?   Total seeds x 2 = _____    OR   total seeds x 3 = _____.   But remember I said not all seeds will produce so we plant extra seeds in a hill.  I like to plant 4 seeds to be sure to get some pumpkins.  So if we plant 4 seeds per hill how many hills will we need to plant to use up the total seeds?   Total seeds divided by 4 = _____ hills.  How much room do we need to plant this many hills?  Remember we need to plant the hills 4 feet apart with 6 feet between rows.  Draw a planting plan on the white board and talk about the measurements and total space needed.
  6. Pumpkin growers need to know what kind of soil pumpkins need, what kind of fertilizer to give them, how much water they need.  Size depends on water, temperature, insects, diseases, pollination, fertility, soil type, plant population and weeds.
  7. 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.
  8. Harvesting of pumpkins. 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.
  9. Revisit the adult helper who is carving the pumpkin. How did it turn out? Discuss other uses for pumpkins besides carving.  Students can write a list of these in their journal/notebook.
  10. Make Pumpkin Patch Pie in class using other adult helper and as many of the students as possible.  Let them know their help is needed and their job is important no matter what it is.
    1. One student times each step
    2. One student passes out cups to everyone
    3. Two students crush graham crackers for crumbs in a plastic Ziploc bag. 
    4. One student measures 2 2/3 cups cold milk into gallon sized Ziploc bag
    5. Two students open packages of vanilla pudding mix and carefully place them with the milk
    6. Two students remove air and close shut and squeeze and carefully kneed with hands until blended for 1 minute
    7. One student adds pumpkin  
    8. One student adds spices of cinnamon and ginger
    9. Two students remove air and close shut and squeeze and kneed with hands until blended for 2 minutes
    10. Two students spoon graham cracker crumbs into each cup
    11. One student helps squeeze mixture into cups.  No one eats until it is all passed out!! 
    12. One student sprinkles more graham cracker crumbs on top
    13. One student squeeze whipped topping on top
    14. One student passes out spoons. Enjoy!
    15. One student help collect trash
    16. Two students pass out small mini pumpkins for them to keep and draw faces on later and take home

Did you know? (Ag facts)

  • Illinois is the top pumpkin producing state with nearly 500 million pounds of pumpkins harvested each year.

Author(s)

Leola Boyce, Office Assistant, Clarke County Farm Bureau, Iowa

Organization Affiliation

Clarke County Farm Bureau, Iowa Agriculture in the Classroom

Agriculture Literacy Outcomes

  • Theme 1: Explain how the interaction of the sun, soil, water, and weather in plant and animal growth impacts agricultural production.
  • Theme 2: Explain how the availability of soil nutrients affects plant growth and development.
  • Theme 3: Diagram the path of production for a processed product, from farm to table. Distinguish between processed and unprocessed food. Identify careers in food, nutrition, and health.
  • Theme 5: Provide examples of agricultural products available, but not produced in their local area and state.

Common Core Connections

  • S.3–5.SI.5: Incorporate mathematics in science inquiries.
  • S.3–5.SI.7: Communicate scientific procedures and explanations.
  • SS.3–5.G.2: Understand how geographic and human characteristics create culture and define regions.
  • SS.3–5.E.4: Understand factors that create patterns of interdependence in the world economy.

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