Friday, October 21, 2016

Pumpkin Project

I use to do this project in 5th and 6th grade, so I thought I'd try it for my 7th graders.  I'm hoping to start this next week with my enrichment classes. I just wanted to share the idea today so other teachers can prepare and use it before Halloween as well. That is, if they would like to. ;)

As a teacher myself, I know sometimes funds are tight. So, I usually have students volunteer to bring in a pumpkin. I do communicate with their parents about donating. There are many parents that are eager to donate items to their child's class, especially if it's for a fun activity. In the past, I've even had some parents ask me how many I needed. I would recommend one pumpkin per class.

Explain to the class that everyday they are going to be given a task to perform. When they perform this task, they are to do it on their own without any help from their friends. I designate a portion of the class period to allow them to do this.

Students in some classes get so involved in the activity that they even give their class pumpkin a name!

Make it more interesting by surprising them each day with the task they are to perform. Keep them wondering what is going to happen next! It makes it fun.

Day 1: Have students estimate the weight of the pumpkin in pounds. Bring a scale to weigh the pumpkin after everyone has estimated. Be sure to tell students to keep the pumpkin over the table when they lift it, just in case they accidentally drop it.  I never had that happen, but it's better to be safe than sorry.  The winner is the person that estimated closest to the actual weight of the pumpkin without going over.

Day 2: Have students estimate the circumference of the pumpkin using a piece of string or yarn. Do not let them wrap the pumpkin with the string or yarn, they have to estimate it. I love to watch them use their imagination when they do this. They can get pretty creative! The winner is the person that cut a piece of string or yarn closest to the actual circumference of the pumpkin.  My students have not covered the unit on circumference yet, so I will not be mentioning any formulas.

Day 3:  Cut the top of the pumpkin and have students help you gut it.  I usually have two to three students doing this at a time.  I try to give everyone a chance. Some students pass because they don't like the slimy feeling, but some are thrilled about doing it! I have students place the seeds in a large, clear ziptop bag.  When all of the seeds have been removed, I have students estimated the number of pumpkin seeds in the bag.  The best way is to just pass the bag around so they can see and feel the seeds. Please make sure the bag is closed properly. You can use packing tape to seal the opening for good measure. 

I tell my students that I will announce the winner the next day, because I need to count the seeds.  Um, well, I take the seeds home to roast in the oven. I don't tell them I'm going to do that because it adds to the daily surprise.

There are many different recipes for roasting pumpkin seeds online.  I usually just look one up that looks easy and use it.  :)

Day 4:  I tell students that I didn't have a chance to count the pumpkin seeds to see who the winner was, (tee hee) but I'm going to let them count them. I then surprise them with the roasted pumpkin seeds!  After the oohs and ahs, I give a handful to each group of four to count. I then have them write their amount on the dry erase board at the front of the classroom. As you can imagine, this will create quite a long list of numbers, so we get into the discussion of "what is the best way" to add the numbers up!  This is done as they are eating the pumpkin seeds. We determine the winner and then I give them another task.

I assign their homework that is due on day 5, the very next day.  I have students design a face for their pumpkin and inform them that they will vote on their favorite design to use for their class pumpkin.

Day 5:  Collect "homework" and tape designs to wall, no student names showing. I usually place numbers by them to make it easier to vote on. This is done quietly and quickly.  Once voting is done, I then announce the winner and begin to trace or draw the design on the pumpkin, or have the actual winner do it if they would like to.  I then begin to carve the pumpkin as students complete an assignment.  I will have some come help if they are done. However, I am the one that carves the pumpkin for safety reasons.  I then place a battery operated candle in the pumpkin and we get to enjoy it for a while, because we then have a raffle!  That's right! The pumpkin goes to the student whose name is drawn!  

Surprise after surprise, students love these activities. It's a great morale booster for the entire class. It also only takes a few minutes out of the class period each day. 

Of course, you can change, omit or add anything you'd like to this project to make it your own. I will probably have to adjust my time line as well. I'm just sharing one of the activities that I have done in the past with my students.

By the way, I have them keep all of the information on a sheet of paper labeled Day 1, Day 2, etc.  That way, they can turn the entire page in for a participation grade.

I hope you do decide to use it in your classroom. If you do, please let me know how it went! 

Thanks for reading and have a great day!!!

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