Fall is the time for harvesting, leaf-changing, and pumpkins! This seasonal fruit has an important role in U.S. agricultural history. (Yes – pumpkins are a fruit! Anything that holds seeds is botanically categorized as a fruit. Squash, cucumbers, and tomatoes also fit this definition.). Pumpkins were a staple in the diet of American Indians who raised pumpkins as one of their three main crops – maize (corn), beans and pumpkins/squash. When European settlers arrived in the Americas, they learned to plant grow and eat pumpkins. “We had pumpkins in the morning and pumpkins at noon. If it were not for pumpkins, we’d be undone soon,” one settler wrote in 1683. The activity below describes using pumpkins as a tool to practice math skills such as predictions, logical reasoning, counting by tens, and addition.
- At least two pumpkins – preferably different sizes
- Large spoon
- Paper towels
- 10 cups
- Sandwich sized plastic bags
- Look at your pumpkins and form a prediction about how many seeds are inside. Discussion starter: Does the size of the pumpkin affect the number of seeds? What other factors would we think about when predicting the number of seeds?
- Cut the top of the pumpkins off and dig out the seeds using a large spoon. Place the seeds and fibers from each pumpkin on a separate piece of newspaper.
- Clean off the fibers and dry the seeds using paper towels.
- Count the seeds from each pumpkin using the cups and plastic bags. Fill the cups with 10 seeds. When all 10 cups are filled, pour the 100 seeds into a plastic bag. Use the bags to count the total number of seeds in each pumpkin.
- Discuss: Were the predictions accurate? Did the larger pumpkin have more seeds than the smaller pumpkins?
- The seeds that were collected can be roasted and enjoyed as a crunchy snack. Click here for a recipe. Another option is to select a few seeds to germinate (sprout) and try growing your own pumpkin plant. The pumpkin seeds can be planted directly in soil and should sprout in about 7-10 days. If you would like to see this germination process directly from the seed, you can also place 2-3 seeds in a plastic bag in contact with 2-3 moist cotton balls. If the cotton balls stay moist and the seeds should sprout in 5-7 days and then you can plant them in a soil.
For more pumpkin learning activities and background information click here!
For further information about the Minnesota Agriculture in the Classroom program visit www.mda.state.mn.us/maitc or contact Al Withers, Program Director at firstname.lastname@example.org or Sue Knott, Education Specialist at email@example.com.