Pumpkin Readiness

Tomorrow, I will conduct a lesson on pumpkins for my garden club students. It is one of my favorite lessons! Pumpkins are a great plant to utilize when explaining an annual life cycle. The fact that they go from seed to seed in one growing season is easily illustrated.

Here are my posters:

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Since I do not want any injuries, we will not do any carving. But, I do have some activities involving this fall fruit. Fruit? Yes. Pumpkins are a fruit. Kids must be getting smarter because I used to be able to trip them up by stating this. Now, most of them already know that if there are seeds surrounded by flesh, it is the fruit of a plant.

Encyclopedia Britannica defines Fruit, as “the fleshy or dry ripened ovary 

of a flowering plant, enclosing the seed or seeds. Thus, apricotsbananas, and grapes, as

well as bean pods, corn grains, tomatoescucumbers, and (in their

shells) acorns and almonds, are all technically fruits. Popularly, however,

the term is restricted to the ripened ovaries that are sweet and either succulent or pulpy.”

Years ago, I read on KidsGardening.com that a vegetable is just a culinary term for a fruit that is not very sweet.  Thus, pumpkins fit the bill on both accounts. If you’ve ever carved a pumpkin, or cut one up to make pumpkin pie, you can certainly see the seeds that were produced as the fruit ripened, ready to start the cycle all over again the following year.

Students, nowadays, also seem to already understand that to have fruit (food) we must have pollinators visit the plant’s flowers and move pollen from one plant to another. A whopping one third of our food comes from pollinated plants – that’s one in every three spoonfuls, folks! If you need one reason to support pollinators with flowering plants in your garden, that’s it! Food! We all need it to survive, therefore, we all need pollinators to survive!

But, I digress.  This unit has many purposes.  One is to understand that plants go through an orderly progression of changes during their life cycles.  Another objective is to be able to introduce the younger student to new vocabulary terms by using a hands-on approach so they can then verbalize an understanding of each term and what part of the reproductive cycle the term refers to when applying it to the subject of pumpkins.  The students will also be able observe and verbalize three elements necessary for seed germination. Do you know what these are? I bet many of you don’t. That’s okay, but two of these three elements are intangible and something I want the students to understand. Finally, the student will be able to roughly describe the concept of pollinator and explain why pollinators (specifically, bees) are important to plant life cycles.  Ideally, they will be able to state what the phrase, “seed to seed” means.

As you can see this unit is jam packed with information! We will also do some pumpkin measuring (circumference, height, and number of ribs) and some predicting, estimating, and counting regarding the number of seeds contained within each pumpkin. Yes! EACH student will have a pumpkin from which to take these measurements.

A kind, local farmer donated the 23 small pumpkins for this activity when I went to purchase them on Monday. I was so happy to be able to accept his kindness! I’m sure the students will be happy, too, when they are each able to take their pumpkin home!

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