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Online Educational Resources: Pumpkin Carving Lesson Ideas

Updated on March 14, 2013
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Looking for an educational Fall or Halloween activity? Pumpkin carving is a great activity for all ages and all academic disciplines. Carving pumpkins is messy, but what fun activities aren’t? Embrace the goop and dive in. Materials are cheap and the kids will love it.

To facilitate clean up:

  • place a drop cloth down on the floor where the students will carve their pumpkins.
  • Have them wear smocks or bring a change of clothes.
  • If weather is fair, this activity can be done outside. Since pumpkin is extremely biodegradable, and a tasty snack for squirrels and other critters, you won’t have to worry about cleaning up every glob of flung pumpkin guts.

Tips for Teachers:

When you cut the top off the pumpkin, make sure to angle the knife towards the middle. The angle will keep the top from sliding into the pumpkin and getting stuck, or putting out the candle.

If it is a particularly warm fall and you want to display the pumpkins outside of the classroom or around the school, rub Vaseline along the cut edges. It will help keep the moisture in and slow the decomposition process. I’ve also heard that it keeps the squirrels from snacking on them.

A huge part of the pumpkin carving experience is to light up the pumpkins in a dark room when everyone has finished, so don’t forget to get candles and leave a few minutes at the end of the activity. If you can't use or don’t want to use candles, an alternative is a battery operated tea light. There is no flame at all and it looks more natural than a small flashlight.

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Pumpkin Seed Recipe

A great recipe from allrecipes.com:

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups raw, whole pumpkin seeds
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Spread pumpkin seeds onto a medium baking sheet. Drizzle with oil. Sprinkle with salt.
  3. Bake 45 minutes in the preheated oven, stirring occasionally, until lightly toasted.

Preschool Pumpkin Carving Lesson Ideas

It’s a great tactile experience for young children to gut a pumpkin (and if they eat it, who cares? It won’t hurt them). I suggest assigning children to groups and giving them one pumpkin: not only do they learn important cooperation skills, but that way a tactily defensive child won’t have to touch the mush if he or she doesn’t want to.

To practice fine motor skills, have the children separate the guts from the seeds. Collect the seeds in a large bowl and make pumpkin seeds for snack.

To help children learn shapes, cut obviously different shapes into the top of the pumpkins around the stem. Mix up the pumpkins and place all of the tops into a separate pile. You can then have the children work together to fit all of the tops onto the proper pumpkin, or, assign each child a specific shape which he or she must match with the correct pumpkin.

Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin Seeds | Source

Pumpkin Science Related Literature

Science Pumpkin Carving Lesson Ideas

Many science teachers do a lesson on decomposition. For a fun twist, have your students carve pumpkins and then place them in different environments, such as warm, cold, sunlit, dark, or test Vaseline or no Vaseline. They can then record the changes happening to the pumpkin each day as it decomposes, and it will look pretty funny to see the face shrivel up and cave in.

You could also carve pumpkins together after discussing pumpkin facts and then place a few of the seeds into plastic sandwich bags with wet cotton balls. Take a poll: will they grow? You can turn the results of the poll into different kinds of graphs to incorporate math into the science project. Observe the seeds over the next few weeks and have them record the changes.

Pumpkin Themed Children's Literature

English Pumpkin Carving Lesson Ideas

For very young students, read a pumpkin story together before carving the pumpkins. With older students, have them carve their jack-o-lantern and use it as the inspiration for, or the main character in, a short story.

Cathy posted a very fun lesson idea on ProTeacher Collection:

I do a vocab lesson on feelings (angry, melancholy, frustrated, scared, hopeful, excited, horrified, etc...) I have the students look up the word in the dictionary and write it on the bottom of the pumpkin. Then, they have to decorate the face of the pumpkin to match the word they looked up. On the back they have to use the word in a sentence--I feel _____________ when_____________. I hang them on a board with the title "PUMPKINS WITH PERSONALITY."

Pumpkin Pi

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Math Pumpkin Carving Lesson Ideas

A common pumpkin activity is to have the students estimate the number of seeds in the pumpkin, and then count out the seeds to see who was the closest. You can also use the seeds for various other counting activities after letting them dry by the window for a few days.

With older students you can measure the weight, circumference etc. of the pumpkin before carving it.

How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin? (Mr. Tiffin's Classroom Series)
How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin? (Mr. Tiffin's Classroom Series)

A fun story about estimating how many seeds there are in a pumpkin.

 

Art Pumpkin Carving Lesson Ideas

A pumpkin still life is appropriate for all ages, and it can be a lot of fun to find different shapes, colors, and textures of pumpkins.

The Jack-o-Lanterns provides the perfect opportunity to discuss portraits. Have your students draft a portrait of a friend or famous figure. Then have them absract the portait into geometric shapes and then transfer it to the pumpkin. Whose pumpkin looks the most like the person?

Pumpkin carving is still a fun medium for high school art students. You could discuss etchings or other reductive techniques and apply them to the thick skin of the pumpkin. They can create a detailed carving by scraping away varying layers of the meat. The thinner the meat, the more light will shine through and the lighter the area will be.

Pumpkin Still Life
Pumpkin Still Life | Source

High School Physics Pumpkin Lesson Idea

Pumpkin chunking.

Who doesn’t want to see a pumpkin explode? Use this as motivation to discuss force, leverage, velocity, etc. As a class, or in groups, build a catapult and then use it to toss pumpkins. Keep records of the speed and distance the pumpkin travelled, and then calculate the velocity.

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