Everywhere you go during the fall season, you see and smell pumpkins. Pumpkins can even be brought into the classroom for some engaging math and science activities. I like to set aside an afternoon on a Friday during the month of October just to explore this festive gourd. After all, who doesn’t love some great pumpkin activities?
I begin by breaking my students up into groups and provide each group with this adorable flipbook (image below)
and three different sized pumpkins. You can choose three pie pumpkins all close in size, or a large carving pumpkin, a pie pumpkin, and the flat decorating pumpkins.
Science Pumpkin Activities
To get students in the mindset of science, I first have them observe their three different pumpkins individually. They list all their observations down in their flipbook. I remind students about observations and how it is so much more than just writing the color and shape of the pumpkin. I guide them by asking some questions like, “How many lines does the pumpkin have?” or “Does it have any flat spots?” This is a great time for students to see if they can distinguish one pumpkin from another – especially if they have three pumpkins that are very much alike in size and shape!
We then discuss the pumpkin’s life cycle. I like to read the book (aff. link) Pumpkin Jack to my students before I let them get started on the various stages of the cycle in the flipbook. Then I have students cut out the different stages and glue them in the flipbook in the correct order. Once they are finished, I ask them what stage they think their three pumpkins are in. Without a doubt, there is always someone who believes their pumpkin is in a different stage because it’s small. (If desired, you could provide each group with a green pumpkin so they do have a pumpkin in a different stage.)
Here are some other great books about pumpkins that you may want to consider (aff. links):
- How Big Could Your Pumpkin Grow? (Minor)
- How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin (McNamara)
- Pumpkin Circle (Levenson)
- The Pumpkin Book (Gibbons)
- Pumpkin Pumpkin (Titherington)
Math & Science Pumpkin Activities
The next page in the flipbook could be listed as either math or science because it’s all about measurements. Each pumpkin’s height- from the bottom to the top of the stem is measured and recorded. For extra fun, you could have your students estimate the height first. Then provide students with a piece of string or yarn and have them wrap it around the largest part of the pumpkin. I like to demonstrate finding the circumference of the pumpkin first so students know exactly how this works. After they have wrapped the string, they measure it to determine the circumference.
Next, I have students determine the mass of their pumpkins. If you’re using large pumpkins, you may wish to have them stand on a scale first without a pumpkin and find their weight. Then they’d stand on the scale with the pumpkin and find the weight again. Then simple calculation to find the difference will tell students just what that pumpkin weighs. (That will be weight, not mass but that’s okay for this activity.) If you want mass, use a pan balance or triple beam balance – but that will only work for small pumpkins.
Finally, I have students measure the water that they place in a small bin. Then after placing their pumpkin in the bin with water, they notice where the water line is again to determine the volume of the pumpkin. They can do this by subtracting the water line number with the pumpkin in the water from the water line number without the pumpkin.
If you want you can then provide students with calculators and have them find the density of the pumpkins by having them divide the mass by the volume. Density is a fun topic to explore… but usually, you need some time to teach it.
Other Pumpkin Activities
While the flipbook pages have ended, you can still continue your engaging day of pumpkin fun. For instance, I like to provide my students with mini-paper pumpkin prompts and have them write! You can learn more about my Halloween Writing Prompts by clicking here.
If you have the larger pumpkins, you could cut them open and talk about the pumpkin seeds. Or, if you prefer to keep it a little less messy (totally agree with you!), you could pick up dry pumpkin seeds and have students estimate how many are in a bowl. This is a great time to discuss the reasonableness of an answer. Then you can make arrays! When done, throw them in a sandwich bag with a wet paper towel and see what develops.
Why not make a Pumpkin Trivia Math Wheel? This pumpkin activity pretty cool because the question shows through the top by the stem and students record the answer in the slot along the bottom. They work their way all around the pumpkin. You can learn more about the Pumpkin Trivia Math Wheel here.
If you’re looking for more Halloween classroom ideas check out my post, Halloween Science Activities and Flying Pumpkins. If your school won’t let you celebrate Halloween, I have a post for that too. Head over to Activities for When You Can’t Celebrate Halloween.
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