Perfectly Peculiar Pumpkin Investigations (Oct/Nov)

We arrived to our Nature Classroom to find a plethora of pumpkins and gourds in the the yard.  There were pumpkins of all sizes and we wondered where they had come from. We wasted no time exploring with them as we lifted them, noticing which ones were heaviest and lightest and we noticed that a couple were just too heavy for us to pick up. We used our entire bodies to roll, lift an I and M decided to collect all of the pumpkins together so they came up with a plan for transporting them using the heavy cart.  Their friends helped them to locate all of the pumpkins and to help them load the heavier ones onto the cart which, once filled, required both of them to pull!

Our explorations took us through our entire morning outdoors and we were a little sad to leave our new interest outside when we went in for lunch! Our new found interest did turn our eyes to the gourds we had in the classroom and brought a very creative use for them to mind! We used the gourds to makes textured prints in clay at our art table that day.

We couldn’t wait to get back outside to our pumpkins the following day and some of our friends got very creative as they used them for decorating with mud and to “float” in a puddle that they had been splashing around in.  The puddle proved to be too shallow though and the pumpkins just rested on the ground at the bottom of the puddle.

We showed off our strength as we lifted and carried them and took turns rolling them across the grass.

Together, we decided to bring one of the larger ones into the classroom and give it a bath in our water table so we could extend our investigations a little further. We talked about how not all pumpkins were the same and Chelsa wondered if we should bring in some pumpkins that were different.

After lunch, Chelsa came in with more pumpkins and they sure were different from the ones most of us were used to!  We brought them to the carpet where we talked a LOT about pumpkins. Lisa said she even had a white one at her house!  We knew that pumpkins grow in a patch or on a farm, they have seeds inside, we put them at our front door, they are for Halloween and you can sometimes get them at a farm market.  We went on to count our pumpkins before comparing them. The one from outside was largest, the dark orange one was roundest and each one was a different colour: Orange, dark orange, light orange/peach and we even had a funny looking blue one which wasn’t round at all and was the smallest of the four.  We wondered why they were different. We also considered the gourds we had brought indoors and S mentioned that they were squash. Did you know that pumpkins and gourds are both in the squash family?

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We considered things that we can DO with pumpkins and we came up with some really great ideas including: Roll them, eat them, warm them up, carve it and put a plant in it and carve them for Halloween.  Did you know that a carved pumpkin is called a “Jack-O-Lantern”? We got out the magnifying glasses and took a closer look at the different bumps, curves and hues of the pumpkins. We noticed that some felt harder than others and that each of the gourds was unique in colour, patterns, shape and size. We even created our own interpretations of the different pumpkins using markers and paper.

We were SO excited to invite our families in to see all of the different pumpkins and gourds when we arrived  to class the following morning.

Back outside, we even used the pumpkins to build with as JL and E worked together to make a “Super duper pumpkin moving machine” .

After adding pumpkin spice to our play dough, our sense of smell came to life and some of our friends recognized the scent as they talked about the pumpkin pies they had made or tasted with their families over Thanksgiving. That got us wondering  what kind of pumpkiney treat we could make together and it wasn’t long before the idea of pumpkin muffins for our upcoming party came to us! Lisa gathered up all of the ingredients we needed to make them and we got to work measuring, pouring, cracking eggs and mixing.  Each of us had a turn in the process, excited to do our part before we put the batter in the muffin tins and sent them off to the oven. Before long, the delicious smell of the muffins filled the centre but we knew we would have to wait a couple of days before they would reach our tongues and tummies!

The following day, we decided to investigate the INSIDES of our pumpkins!  We came up with some different shapes and ideas for a face for one of the pumpkins and then voted on the shapes we wanted use.

Together, we decided to give our Jack-O-Lantern circle eyes, a triangle nose and a “happy” mouth before we got to work carving.  Chelsa got started with cutting and would you believe the stem of that pumpkin broke right off!? We all thought this was pretty funny. We worked together to separate the pumpkin “guts” from the seeds so that we could later wash the seeds for cooking and eating. Lisa started opening the light orange pumpkin and we noticed that it was much darker inside and smelled kind of like carrots! Oh, and the stem broke right off of that one too!  We noticed also that these seeds were “fatter” and a slightly different colour than the other seeds and we wondered if that determined the colour and shape of the pumpkin.

G and L spread the clean seeds onto baking trays before bringing them to the oven to roast and while we couldn’t wait to try them with our snack, we didn’t all agree on the taste. Some of us LOVED them and some of us… well… did not.

Finally, Halloween which was also the day for our party, arrived!  We couldn’t wait to bring our families with us on a walkabout through our forest to show them all of the things we know and love there.  The rain came down but none of us minded as we splashed our way through the trails together.

R and her Mommy even found a tiny bird’s nest along the way which we decided to bring back and share with everyone.

We shared a morning snack with our families as well as a story before showing off our costumes and saying good-bye.

The day was filled with Halloween excitement and activities which finally lead us back to out pumpkin muffins!

We were ready to burst with anticipation when Lisa mixed up some orange frosting to decorate them with. Each of us spread the frosting on our own muffin and, when snack time came around, we were not disappointed. We ALL loved them!! So much so that many of us wanted the recipe to make them at home!  We even made time to carve another pumpkin that R had designed himself. It had a “winky” eye like the donkey in one of our favourite stories, ‘The Wonky Donkey”!

When  Halloween was over we wondered what we should do with all of our pumpkins and gourds that we had been investigating. While we always compost our food at Discovery, we decided to get creative with our pumpkins this time around. We talked about how the animals in the forest are starting to run out of food with winter on it’s way so we wondered if they might like to have our pumpkins to eat. We loaded them onto our wagon and brought them to the forest with us, eager to see what would happen. In the forest, Lisa suggested we break the pumpkins up a bit so the animals wouldn’t get stuck in them and we thought this was a great idea! We went to work using all sorts of methods to get those pumpkins to break and it turned into a full morning of work for us!  JL and DF started by hitting their pumpkin with large sticks, taking turns hammering them. With much effort, they noticed that there was very little progress.

They decided to move the pumpkin to another location where they could roll it off a boulder, hoping it might smash as it fell. The pumpkin proved to be heavy work and the two worked together to lift it up onto the boulder before giving it a good shove! Off  it went and it hit the ground with a “thump” before rolling farther away. They ran after it, eager to see the damage and were excited with what they found. It had cracked! This encouraged them to do it all over again, working as a team to move the pumpkin back to the top of the boulder before launching it back down again. They encouraged some of their friends to join them and this process was repeated over and over throughout the morning until the pumpkin was cracked completely in half!

When they tried this same method of pumpkin destruction with the blue pumpkin, it didn’t work. That one was just too hard! They decided to leave it there and see what happened while we were away from the forest.

RC Was using another tactic to try to break the dark orange pumpkin.  She had stuck a stick into the eye hole of the carved pumpkin and was using another to hammer the stick further into the hole.  

As the stick moved into the pumpkin more and more, she started to pry at it, trying to break it.  She showed some of her friends what she was doing and even offered them a turn. Over the course of the morning, they worked away, eventually splitting the pumpkin just the way they wanted.

At our meeting area, RM had started using this method of hammering a stick with another into a pumpkin but he had flipped his hollow pumpkin upside down and was trying to make a hole through the bottom.  His friends came to help and they took turns hammering while RH held onto the stick they were hammering in place. Finally, the stick pierced the pumpkin and the the hole went all the way through!

RH then placed a long stick through the pumpkin and asked Chelsa to hold one end while he held the other.  The pumpkin was on a “spit” and they walked together to the “tiger hole”, the final destination for this pumpkin.

Here, he and his friends used a brick they had found to try to smash the pumpkin even more without too much luck.

The morning ended and we were pretty proud of all of the effort we had put into bringing food for our forest friends.  We were excited to find our what the animals might do with them while we were away.

With our pumpkins in the forest, feeding the animals, we had only our little gourds left in the classroom.  We wanted to make something out of them before they went bad and wondered if we could make bird feeders from them. Chelsa helped us to cut the different gourds in half before we worked away at removing the seeds which, we noticed, looked a lot like the pumpkin seeds!  We made holes in the sides of the gourds and then placed twine through the holes for hanging them up.

Most of us wanted to bring our feeders home to fill and hang at home but JD said he would keep his at the centre to hang in the tree outside our classroom!  The next morning, he hung it in the birch tree so we could see it all day from the classroom

Before heading to the forest, we stopped at the feeder to fill it up with seeds.

Upon our return to the woods, we couldn’t believe what we found!  Our pumpkins had certainly served their purpose! We noticed that all of our pumpkins were almost empty of seeds and even the really hard blue pumpkin had been clawed and chewed on by animals!

We wondered what animals had found them and thought that maybe squirrels, raccoons and birds could have been responsible for all of the damage.

We started to notice that there were a lot of birds fluttering amongst the trees around us and, with the branches now stripped of their leaves, were able to see all kinds of nests above us.  We practiced our “flying” as we took turns jumping from our climbing logs and flapping our “wings”.

Our very exciting and creative pumpkin investigations have lead us right into an interest in birds as we watch JD’s feeder outside our window and have begun to identify the different feathered friends that come to visit.

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