If your campus is like mine, there is a big push toward STEM activities that allow students to explore and learn through hands-on activities. Over the past few years, I have loved working pumpkins into my October lesson plans, and doing a STEM activity with pumpkins is always a long-lasting memory for my students.
When I do these activities my goal is to both introduce and refine our measurement and observational skills using pumpkins. The kids have a total blast measuring, counting, observing, and predicting.
I set up 5 stations around our room and (whenever possible) have parents volunteer to donate pumpkins. There are a variety of sizes we need (and some can be used in 2 different stations) so I typically never end up having to buy too many myself.
The first thing we do (usually as part of our morning work so it doesn’t take up any of our already too short instructional time) is cut out and put together our mini-books. Early finishers get the opportunity to color while they wait for the rest of the class to finish. I decided this year that a staple in the bottom corner of the book was the way to go so that students could spread their pages out. The five stations can be done as rotations, so we also had a conversation about finding the right page for each station before you begin because you might not go in order.
This station was all about reviewing their properties of matter. The kids each got to pick one of the small pumpkins to describe and create a diagram of. I told them they really needed to use their senses because I was going to have them try to find their pumpkin in a pile of pumpkins a week later. Of course, we never quite got around to that part, but it really did help my kids take the time to focus on the details.
I always find my kids need more hands on practice with measurement. This stations let them work on making comparisons and drawing conclusions based on their measurements. They had to use the balance scales and really think about what they could determine about the pumpkins that were not included in the required comparisons based on what they knew. It was amazing to see them having deep discussions about which pumpkins had the greatest mass, even when they didn’t have the comparisons of some of them. Talk about an opportunity to bring in real life inferring skills!
Like I said, measurement is always an area of weakness for my third graders. I think it is because they just don’t get enough opportunities to use the measurement tools in meaningful ways. This activity was super fun because the kids had to make predictions based on nonstandard measures and then use the actual tools to figure out whether they were correct. It was also great for that key measurement vocabulary.
I loved being a fly on the wall for this station. We did this at the very end and split the class into two groups to count seeds. I had each team determine a strategy for counting before they started, and it was neat to see some of them begin to think about multiplication concepts as a faster way to get a total seed count. Of course, they also loved the messy, slimy fun of scooping all the seeds out.
Finally, we did an experiment to see if the size of the pumpkin would impact whether it sinks. The kids had all kinds of ideas about what would happen, and were amazed when even our largest pumpkin bobbed on the top of the water.
When we completed all our investigations the kids had the chance to reflect on their learning. I had some great responses! You could tell the kids really were engaged and had some big ah-ha moments while they worked collaboratively. Having the hands-on experience with pumpkins was something that many of my students did not have prior to our experiment, which was definitely an added bonus.If you are interested in doing pumpkin science stations in your classroom, you can get the directions and the reproducible mini-book for your students here.