Sunday, 22 September 2013

Everything Pumpkin

Or at least, all I can think of at the moment that has to do with pumpkins!

To get into the spirit of pumpkin activities, you may wish to start by reading a little about the history of pumpkin carving and Jack O'Lanterns (Wikipedia) and perhaps also about pumpkins in general.

Below are some activities, sorted by subject area, that all have one thing in common: PUMPKINS! Many of these activities lend themselves to a wide variety of ages/grade levels depending on the depth and detail into which you decide to take them.



Explore these concepts through measurement; have students hold a pumpkin then guess the pumpkin's weight. Graph their answers and then weigh it to see how the actual weight compares with the estimates.

Float a pumpkin in a water table and measure the displacement to determine the volume displaced. Since the pumpkin will float, try marking the water line on the pumpkin as well and use this to estimate the entire volume of the pumpkin. Carver or cut up the pumpkin then try doing this again to measure the actual volume and compare with the earlier estimate.

Pi, Proportions and Ratios

Measure the circumference and use this to determine the value of Pp. Of course, when you mention pumpkins along with pi, you may have to provide some pie as well. If time permits, hone student skills at measurement, proportions and ratios through baking your own pie in class. You can also explore the distributive property as you divide out portions for eating.


Simple counting: count the number of creases on the outside of the pumpkin, and then count the number of seeds inside. Try this with several pumpkins and compare the results through graphs. Either roast and eat the seeds, or clean and dry them, then spray paint one side of them to use as math manipulatives similar to these made with beans later on.

More pumpkin math ideas can be found here.


Starting in the spring, plant some pumpkins with the class. Compare their growth rates. Consider altering a variable, such as using different soils, watering regimens, amounts of shade/sun etc. and record observations.

If you were to carve a pumpkin deep under water, what would happen?

Some people grow large pumpkins then carve boats out of them to race each autumn. You can see details of this Nova Scotian Festival at their website here. What scientific principles allow a boat to be made out of a pumpkin? How does the shape of the pumpkin affect its passage through water?

Many people use dry ice in their pumpkins, and there is nothing all that new there, but if you do that, you might find some of these other dry ice activities interesting.

After carving one or more classroom pumpkins, dedicate a space for it/them to decay. Look at the moulds etc. up close with a magnifying glass and/or microscope.

For older students: challenge them to design and build a propelling device to launch a small pumpkin a specified distance and/or as far as they can.


Pumpkin carving naturally lends itself to creativity, but there is more you can do with pumpkin art. Consider the seeds--these can be dried and painted for use in mosaics or pierced to become beads. If you grow your own pumpkins, you can try altering their shape by tying them with string as they grow. Pumpkins can also be painted and sealed with either shellac or varnish. You can cut out chunks (or use pieces left over from carving) to make your own vegetable printing blocks. People have used pumpkins as temporary lampshades as well. These young drummers make me wonder about using pumpkins for music--I wonder if you could use different sizes and actually tune them? As with all art, imagination is key.

Some pumpkin themed crafts (that don't have actual real pumpkins) including making a paper mache pumpkin, a Cinderella's coach from a pumpkin-like gourd, mini edible Jack O'Lanterns from oranges, and more can be found at this link.


There are many ways to eat pumpkin including pies, tarts, muffins, breads, cookies, soups, in casseroles and curries, stuffed as a main course, and for Harry Potter fans, in the form of pumpkin juice.

Active Games/Phys. Ed.:

Pass the pumpkin (played with a small pumpkin or pumpkin gourd)
Like "hot potato", but with a pumpkin.

Tossing games: carve out pumpkins of different sizes, labeling them with different numbers according to the points they are worth and toss ping pong or other lightweight washable balls into them from a distance.

Pumpkin roll: how far can you roll a pumpkin with a single roll? If you are daring, you might try playing pumpkin bowling where you knock down plastic pins or bottles using a small pumpkin as a bowling ball. This one is best played outdoors!

Language Arts:

Story prompts from pumpkins in literature:
- describe in detail what the life of Peter Pumpkin Eater's family might have been like and create a comic strip or short story based on your ideas
- read "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" together (older students only!) and encourage students to set the story to music, or create a video, radio play or parody of the story
- Cinderella's coach turned into a pumpkin at midnight--what might it have looked like inside as a coach? What if she'd been trapped inside it when it transformed?
- Frank L. Baum wrote about Jack Pumpkinhead, a scarecrow-like creature made by a child named Tip and brought to life through the magic powder of life Tip's guardian uses on him. Jack's wisdom seems to depend on the number of seeds in his current head (the pumpkins which form his head are regularly replaced). These "seeds of wisdom" and the lack of them cause all sorts of misadventures, and lend themselves well as a story starter. Older students might compare this story with Mary Shelley's classic, Frankenstein.