This lesson takes several days to complete. It happens to fall just after Halloween and before Thanksgiving. The concept of the pumpkin focuses more on the pumpkin itself as a fruit and not as a Halloween jack-o-lantern. It is really fun for kids to see the "other side" of the pumpkin. The poor pumpkin is always viewed as the Halloween vegetable. Which is a huge misnomer. The pumpkin is actually a fruit and fits in nicely as a connection to the apple.
Teaching about the pumpkin really does not directly address an NGSS standard, however, this lesson
I always want to make sure that I really know and understand the science behind the standards that I am teaching. One of my favorite resources to help me with this are the video clips that have been created by Paul Anderson. In this video clip Mr. Anderson is explaining the entire standard from the elementary to the high school level. I love that he does this.
Explaining from the beginning to the ending of where the standards go, is great for teachers to see, hear and understand. I believe this is so important for all of us to remember that the teaching we do has follows a path that leads farther than the time we are with our students.
During my reading block teaching time, the students and I read a passage called Pumpkins are Popping Up Everywhere from Readworks.org. This passage is a fantastic lead in to the lesson on pumpkins. It also offers a fantastic opportunity to work on Science and Engineering Practice 8, which asks children to read grade-appropriate texts to obtain scientific information to determine patterns about the natural world.
The passage is filled with great scientific language and sequentially lays out the life cycle of the pumpkin plant. It also includes text features that can be discussed and brought into the conversation. After reading the passage and utilizing it within our reading block, we are ready to take all the information from it and think like scientists and apply the new learning.
"Boys and girls, we spent the morning reading a great piece of text about the life cycle of pumpkin plants. I am wondering if we can use any of that information to help us work on some more scientific learning that could help us to learn how to gather data and use measurement tools? What do you think?"
Of course, the kids are very excited because they know this is going to be exciting. They already have a tiny bit of an idea of what may be coming. Many of the students are able to make inferences and put information together and surmise that we will be doing something similar to the apple lessons.
I explain to the children that I have brought some small pumpkins in for each of the table teams to use in our investigations. I usually buy small ornamental pumpkins for this project. During the fall season, they are plentiful and easy to pick up in any store, even grocery stores. The kids love the little pumpkins. There is something so cool to a seven-year-old about tiny little things and these little pumpkins are it!!
I bring each pumpkin on a small tray to each table team. Each pumpkin is on a small tray, either blue, green or purple and each team is designated by those colors. This makes for easy organization.
The children are prepared to look at the Smart Board screen and see what our first step will be. I use Power Points to teach just about every lesson I teach. I really like the ability to project the images I want to show on the screen in a larger format. It serves many purposes in doing so: ELL students have the visuals they need to help make connections and visual learners benefit from the pictures that accompany discussion.
Slide one shows that the children will be sketching their pumpkin. After a visit from a scientist to our classroom one morning, we learned that scientists will some times complete their sketching in black pen. The scientist told the children that when you sketch in pen, you cannot erase. She shared that there isn't any right or wrong in sketching, it is what you observe. So, we use black art pens to practice sketching what we observed. The children felt so grown up.
While the children are sketching, I circulate around the classroom. I talk to the children about what they see and what they wonder might be inside the pumpkin. Of course, most children have experience with carving pumpkins and know that they will find seeds and other pulpy flesh inside. We discuss the perspective they are looking at the pumpkin. Some of the children sketch from the top most part of their pumpkin, while other children sketch from eye level.
The students have sketched and labeled so much by this point of the school year, that they instinctively remember to add the labels to their sketches.
When the children have completed their sketches, I explain that we are going to gather data to describe the pumpkins attributes before we can do anything else. This offers more practice in gathering measurements to that can be used in comparisons later. (SP3)
This is not the first time the children have gathered data. Earlier in the apple lessons, we gathered data as well. During those lessons, I carefully walked the children through the process of the investigation. This time, however, I released more of the learning and allowed them to work in their teams without my guidance.
The students make predictions about the height and weight of the pumpkins. They record the data on the chart in the student booklet. I have the teacher version on the screen as a visual for those students who may still need a bit more connection.
I gather the children on the floor to read a book: How Many Seeds? It is a great book that focuses upon counting, estimating and prediction. It does a fantastic job of integrating and blending in Math Common Core standards along with NGSS standards.
I read the book and use it as a spring board into the next question I want the children to ponder. How many seeds do they believe are in their pumpkins? After reading the story and posing the question, I send the children back to their desks to begin counting. Reading the book helps to activate prior knowledge the children already have from their own experiences in carving pumpkins.
I offer each group ice cube trays. They are perfect to count and sort groups of ten. They are simple colored trays I purchased from the local Dollar Tree. The children have been practicing their skip counting skills since First Grade. However, the pumpkin can potentially have hundreds of seeds and counting this high, means we need a system to keep all those tens organized. The ice cube trays offer a simple and easy way to do this.
Before any counting happens, I have the children predict how many seeds they believe will be in the pumpkin. They document their predictions in the student booklet. Again my teacher version is on the screen for those who need the visual to see.
In the book, How Many Seeds? the text explains that pumpkins have seeds growing on each rib of the pumpkins body. There is no specific number that grows upon the rib of the pumpkin, however, it is possible to predict the number of seeds within the pumpkin. It is important to make a distinction to the children that predicting is not the same as estimating. Yet, both are important skills in science and math.
On the last day of our investigation, we are ready to take some of our pumpkin seeds and plant them again in the shell of the pumpkin. This is the beginning of connecting to LS2-1.
I instruct the students to take soil from a bucket in the classroom and plant about five seeds inside.
After the seeds are planted, we set them in a classroom window that receives a significant amount of light. We water them regularly each day. The students know that a plant should grow. They remember lessons from their First Grade Science kits that grew basilica.
We water the plants daily and wait patiently for the plants to grow. Unfortunately, the timing of this lesson is in one of the colder times of our seasons. The children begin to speculate about the possibility of whether the pumpkins will grow at all.
Discussion ensues about the possibilities that could be hindering the growth of the pumpkin plant. We discuss the possibility of not enough sunshine, or that it may not be warm enough. I bring out a growing lamp and we try this. We also move the plants away from the cold window and place them in a warmer section of our classroom.
We continue to observe them for days, but even after three weeks, the plants do not grow. This is a perfect opportunity to discuss the results we have experienced. Retracing our plan and if we could have done anything differently.
The bigger picture in this portion of the lesson is understanding that scientists do not always get the results they expect.