Grow Your Own Pumpkin and/or Use Real Photos
Real life and hands-on experiences are some of the best ways to teach concepts, therefore growing your own pumpkins and documenting each stage is a great way for students to learn and remember the life cycle of a pumpkin because they actually experience it and help grow the pumpkins. However, growing your own pumpkins takes several months and you may not have the time or resources to do it. Therefore, using real, full-color photographs instead of clip art to show and explain the stages of the pumpkin life cycle is the next best thing because students can relate real photos to the real world easier that clip art or drawn illustrations.
Growing Your Own Pumpkins
If you choose to grow your own pumpkins, here are several tips I have learned.
- When choosing seeds from a pumpkin to plant, choose the largest seeds because they have the best chance to germinate. Save 3 times more pumpkin seeds than the number of plants you want to grow.
- Rinse them under water to clean off all of the pulp.
- Lay them out on a paper towel to dry. Keep them in a cool, dry spot for 1 week.
- Place the dry seeds in an envelope and store in a cool, dry spot until you are ready to plant them. They can be stored in the refrigerator (put the envelope in a container, poke holes in the top of the container, place in the back of the refrigerator).
- It is recommended that pumpkins be planted directly in the ground, however I have started them indoors so students can observe the plant grow and then transplanted them outdoors once the soil is 70 degrees and the last frost is over.
- The soil needs to be 70 degrees or warmer for planting and they need to be in a sunny area. We kept ours indoors by a sunny window until May then transplanted it outdoors in full sun.
- It is best to water a pumpkin in the morning. Pumpkin plants retain a lot of water so they may not need watered every day.
- If starting the plant indoors, it will produce flowers but only male flowers which do not turn into pumpkins. In order for the plant to produce female flowers, the male flowers need to be pollinated by bees. Our indoor plants produced a lot of flowers that would last about a day then die. It wasn’t until we transplanted it outdoors and had bees visit the plant that we finally saw female flowers that turned into pumpkins. In other words, the plant will eventually have to be transplanted outdoors in order for it to produce pumpkins.
- When you transplant it outdoors, give it a lot of water for the first week. It may not do well right away, but should start to perk up in a week or so.
Here are a few pictures from when we grew our own pumpkins.
Students really enjoy this experience! I make watering and checking the pumpkin plant one of the daily student jobs. We document and record any changes in our science journals and online on our class website.
Use Real, Full-Color Photographs
As I stated above, I feel it is very important when discussing the life cycle of a pumpkin plant to use real photographs instead of clip art images so that young students can better relate them to the real world.
When introducing or reviewing the pumpkin life cycle I use a PowerPoint presentation because it holds student interest and I can include some of our own photos as well as animations. It allows me to show the pumpkin life cycle from start to finish since growing our own spanned several months and began in the spring and ended in the fall spanning 2 school terms. I use a combination of the photos we took during our own pumpkin growing experience and stock photographs.
Each stage is explained use simple terms that young students can understand along with a few animations to keep their interest. Here are a few example slides:
Use Interactive Resources & Games
Young students love resources with which they can interact. Videos, games, etc. are all ways to keep them engaged and involved. I wanted a fun and interesting way to check their comprehension of the pumpkin life cycle so I created an interactive quiz at the end of the PowerPoint presentation in which they have to choose the missing picture in a sequence of pumpkin life cycle stages.
If they choose the correct picture, it moves to the correct location in the sequence and a happy pumpkin face is shown. If they choose and incorrect picture, and “Oh no! Try again!” pumpkin face is shown.
Students can answer in several ways: they can raise their hands and take turns coming up and clicking on the answer, they can hold up 1,2, or 3 fingers to represent their choice or they can use dry erase boards and write their answer (1,2, or 3) and hold it up for me to view.
Center or Small Group Activities
A great way for students to review the stages in the life cycle of a pumpkin is with sequencing cards. You can download a free set here that I created using our pictures. Place them in a center and have students put them in the correct sequence or show them a few cards and have them choose which card comes next in the sequence.
You can also bind them together for a class book or reader.
Use the pumpkin life cycle cards to create fun games that will help students learn and review how a pumpkin grows.
Memory – Print 2 copies of the cards and create a memory game (lay the cards upside down, choose 2 cards, if they match keep them if you can name the life cycle stage, if they don’t match or you can’t name the life cycle stage turn them back over and it is the next player’s turn, player with the most matches wins).
Go Fish – Print a number of copies of the cards and play Go Fish (before laying down a match students must name the life cycle stage).
Four Corners (my students’ favorite) – Place a life cycle stage in each corner of the room. Give students to the count of five to find a corner. Pull a pumpkin life cycle card out of the bag and instead of just naming it say something like “This stage of the pumpkin life cycle comes after the flower stage” or “This stage comes before the green pumpkin life cycle stage”. Students name the correct answer and all students standing in that corner are out. Play continues until there is 1 student remaining.
How do you teach the pumpkin life cycle? I would love to read your ideas in the comments!
If you would like to use the Pumpkin Life Cycle PowerPoint and Interactive Quiz in your classroom it is available here.
You can also watch a short 1 minute video preview below:
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Pumpkin Learning Activities (letters, science, counting, art, games), Pumpkin Carving Activity, Pumpkin Books