Pumpkin activities for kids USED TO only mean simple math activities such as estimating and counting seeds. While that may be great for the preschool and kindergarten crowd, there are so many learning lessons and hands-on activities that can be used with upper elementary students in third grade, fourth grade, and fifth grade as well. Older learners will be motivated and engaged by STEM challenges, science experiments, fun math practice, and descriptive writing projects based on a pumpkin. This blog post is full of ideas that can be used on their own or as part of a pumpkin unit of study and even includes a wonderful, FREE resource teachers can print and use in their classrooms.
As the month of October moves on, the kids become more and more excited about Halloween. I’ve worked in schools where all learning came to a halt and the entire building focused on costume parades and sugar-packed parties. I also taught in a school where we were not allowed to mention the word Halloween. I am not saying one of those is right and one of those is wrong, but somewhere in between those two ends of the spectrum you will find some amazing learning opportunities.
October has always been one of my favorite months to teach because the students are so incredibly motivated by the enthusiasm they feel that month. It is so easy to engage them in academic activities just by putting a thematic spin on things.
In my classroom, we always did each of the lessons and activities below. I encourage you to click on each and see how you can enjoy them with your students too.
- Haunted House for Sale Descriptive Writing
- October Themed Journal Writing and Paragraph of the Week Prompts
- Pumpkin Book Projects (focused on character traits and summarizing)
- Non-Fiction Research Projects About Spiders
- Mystery Genre Study
When I taught first grade and second grade, we always carved a pumpkin to practice estimating, grouping, and counting. I don’t know why it took so long for me to think about all the ways we could use pumpkins in upper elementary classrooms as well. The first time I brought pumpkins into third grade was one of my all-time favorite teaching days. The kids were so excited to literally roll up their sleeves and get to work!
I created a packet of printables to use and am happy to share it with you all for FREE. We had been working on rounding, so I was sure to incorporate practice with that skill. I also added in a subtraction activity for them to work on independently while I assisted with the pumpkin dissection. Since we had been working on strengthening our descriptive writing skills with the Haunted House for Sale project, I tweaked the template we use for that and included it, so they could reinforce their understanding of nouns and adjectives using the pumpkin.
Knowing my class would go five kinds of crazy upon entering the classroom and seeing a large pumpkin, I kept it hidden. I placed it into a crate, placed a black cloth over it, and taped a giant question mark onto the front. The kids came in that morning and went ten kinds of crazy. But the excited buzz was the perfect activator and tied in very well to the learning we had been doing about inference skills (through the super engaging Mystery Mail activities).
We talked about using what we know to infer what was hidden. Each student made a guess. I began giving them bits of information and they continued to infer and predict what was under the sheet.
Once the pumpkin was revealed, we started talking about estimation and about how many seeds we thought might be inside. I took the top off (which I highly recommend cutting at home) and they looked inside and made new estimates.
While they worked on the pumpkin-themed rounding and subtraction activity pages, I invited a few students at a time to come to the table and remove and count a handful of seeds. I had them generate descriptive words about how it looked, smelled, and felt while they were doing so. This became the base of their descriptive writing.
We added up all the individual student seed amounts to find the sum of all the seeds inside. This was great review of our prior work with place value and addition strategies. The students used that info to complete the math page. Students who were finished early had the choice between rounding their classmates estimates to the nearest 10 and 100 or finding the difference between estimates and the actual sum. I leave these charts posted throughout the week as easy extension activities for early finishers.
During our language arts time, they began their work on the descriptive writing pieces by talking with their peers and brainstorming lots of adjectives. I guided them through a graphic organizer to plan ideas and then they worked independently on a draft.
In third grade, we do a comprehensive science unit each spring that focuses on the life cycle of plants. This year, I did a mini-unit on the life cycle of an apple and will spend some time this week learning about the life cycle of a pumpkin. I am excited to see how that schema will enhance their understanding during our spring unit.
I love when everything comes together neatly. Are you looking for a way to entertain your students’ Halloween giddiness without losing time on learning? I highly suggest simply bringing in a pumpkin.