Don’t you love going to the grocery store this time of year, with all the pretty pumpkins and fresh apples? Wouldn’t it be fun to use some pumpkins and apples for science activities?
Gather a few pumpkins and apples. Get some different sizes, kinds and colors, if possible. Depending on which activities you try below, you will also need a bathroom/kitchen scale; a container, such as a large plastic bin, to hold water (for floating); a cutting implement; and trays for holding fruit parts. Each child will also need paper and pencils/crayons.
Have your children look at the pumpkins and apples. How are they different, how are they the same? Both pumpkins and apples are fruit, and have seeds inside. Both have stems, can you find the stem? What is the stem for? Apples have a skin, does a pumpkin? (Yes, it does). You can ask older children what they think the fleshy meat (the part we eat) is for.
Have the children sort the pumpkins from the apples. They can also sort the sizes, from smallest to biggest, or by color. (Sorting is such an important scientific skill, one that tends to get forgotten.)
Have the children estimate how much they think each pumpkin/apple weighs. Ask them how they would weigh a big pumpkin. Help them weigh the pumpkins and apples.
Will a pumpkin float? Will an apple float? Does it matter how big it is?
Fill up a large container with enough water to float the biggest pumpkin without slopping over. See if the different fruit will float or not. Have the children bob for apples, if appropriate. Have the children draw what happened.
Have the children estimate how many seeds they think are inside each pumpkin or apple before you cut the fruit open. Write down the estimations and compare with the results below.
Begin to cut into the pumpkins by cutting around the stem, like you were going to make a jack-o’-lantern. Allow the children who want to explore to get their hands inside. Let them feel the seeds. Cut the apples and allow the children to search for seeds. Have them count the apple seeds. See if slices will float (see above).
Sorting Seeds Video
Here is a video showing one way to sort pumpkin seeds with preschoolers.
Let It Rot!
Rotting or decay is a mysterious and fascinating process for children. In our modern ultra-clean world of antibiotics and hand sanitizers, we forget what an important process it is. If at all possible, find a quiet corner and let the pumpkin or apple rot. Check the progress daily. Admire the molds that develop. Discuss the odors. If rotting isn’t progressing, add a bit of water.
Grow or Eat the Pumpkins Seeds
You might want to save some of the pumpkin seeds to grow. If so, wash them and let them dry. Don’t heat them/cook them if you want to plant the seeds. Check one of the websites below for more information on growing pumpkin seeds.
Edit: Since I'm getting a lot of questions about growing pumpkin seeds, I am going to add a link to my website. "Growing Throw Away Seeds" talks about how to grow seeds that we eat, or that we might throw away, like pumpkin seeds. You might also want to try pumpkin seeds in the homemade root viewer.
Or your can oven-dry some of the seeds for eating.
Celebrate Fall by making some of your favorite recipes. Here’s one of ours:
Pumpkin Pie in a Glass Smoothie
Add to blender:
1 to 1 1/2 cups canned or pureed cooked pumpkin
2 cups milk, soymilk or ricemilk
1/3 cup sweetener such as maple syrup
1 cup tofu
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
Blend until well mixed. Makes 4 8oz. Servings.
Websites for further information:
Pumpkins and More Website
Pumpkin Circle – Info on growing pumpkins http://www.pumpkincircle.com/ Edit: Follow the link through the Pumpkin circle, click to enter the site and then look through the list for information on growing pumpkins.
Classroom activities at http://www.sadako.com/pumpkin/activities.html also has information on growing pumpkins in the classroom.
Books ( repeated from theme garden post):
Pumpkin Circle: The Story of a Garden by George Levenson, Shmuel Thaler (Photographer)
I love this book because it isn’t afraid to show rot.
Check this list of Fall–inspired books from the MissRumphiusEffect Blog.
Patty's Pumpkin Patch by Teri Sloat
Follow the progress of a pumpkin patch through the seasons while finding items from the alphabet. For example, in the field where the pumpkins are being planted, “a” is for ant and “b” is for beetle.