Planting Pumpkins in Kindergarten

Oct 14, 2014 | Fall, October, Science, Social Studies, TpT in Action | 15 comments

It’s that time of year… time to plant pumpkins in kindergarten!  Here are some tips, tricks, and lessons I have learned over the years to make this as easy as possible for all!
Let’s start with what you need:
You will need:
– a medium size bag of potting soil  (one of those large bags is just too much soil)
– a medium sized pumpkin
– clear plastic cups (I like the half size cups because they are more stable)
– pumpkin cutting stuff
– Ziploc bags
– chart paper and/or cover from the chart paper tablet or newspaper or butcher paper
Two things to do ahead of time… write the names on the cups (I like to use Marks-A-Lot markers because they never smear and I am just snobby about my markers) AND put potting soil into the ziplock bags so it’s easier to distribute them.
I always have a hard time with the soil because how do I “entertain” the other kids while I am helping the kids at my soil bag.  Dirts flying everywhere… kids are getting restless… just not a good plan.  Finally I got smart and I pre-measured the soil for the kiddos and they get their bag ready to go!
I usually still like to do this activity outside because it can get messy but either way I use chart paper and the cover from a chart tablet because it’s free, I didn’t have to remember to bring it to school, and it’s sturdy enough to roll up and throw away when we are done without breaking!
So now we are ready to open our pumpkin!  Cut like normal and pull off the lid.  I usually cut ahead of time.. but don’t pull it open until I am with the kids because they LOVE the “ooooh” and “ahhhh” that comes with the mystery of opening a pumpkin!
I like to sit in a circle to do this.  We pass the pumpkin around 2 times:  once to just look (so they can record their findings) and a second time to get some seeds.   (A picture from when I did it at my desk which is effective but sitting in a circle is how I like to do it now.)
Now that we have our seeds we are ready to plant them.  My students always use my Let’s Plant Pumpkins Interactive Reader and so they are fully versed in the directions before they get to this stage.  They follow the directions… fill have the cup, drop in seeds, and then fill up the other half of the cup.
Let’s talk about seeds.  I used to be the teacher that gave everyone one seed to each child.  A few years ago I thought to myself…. why?  So we plant multiple seed AND we make sure there are few seeds near the edge so we can really see them grow!  I don’t have pictures of this year but I will add them as the plants we planted this year grow!
Once you plant the seed you put them into containers so you can easily take them outside for sun.  I like to do this into several bins so each day 4-5 kids will get to take them outside and feel apart of the experience.  I really like to use my paper tray baskets – they are just the perfect size so during this week I will often move whatever I am storing in them.  The goal is to put them in so they don’t move around.   For this reason I don’t do them by table because if they can move in the basket they will tip and spill.
I use extra cups if they don’t fit into the baskets snuggly… you don’t want them to spill when moving them outside each day.  And you of course want to plan extra plants too so if you get a new student or if any don’t grow you can replace them after school.
Once you have them all in the basket… then you water them.  I feel like watering them is something that needs to be taught and it’s too chaotic at that time to allow students to do that part just yet!
Everyday we take the plants outside to get sun.  We look at them only in the morning and in the afternoon.  My classrooms never had any natural light so this is a step you may not need to take.
We let the plants grow until they sprout big stems and need to be transplanted.  That usually takes a full week and one weekend. Sometimes we just find a safe place for them over that weekend.. but sometimes I take them home depending on how sensitive they have been to grow for us.
Planting pumpkins in my class is done along side our Let’s Plant Pumpkins Interactive Readers!  This  is a great little download that walks you through each step of the process and concepts that planting pumpkins teaches!
You can of course pick up this little treasure to assist you in your pumpkin planting experience!
I have done a few things I wanted to share with you that have not worked so well! They are my planting pumpkins Pinterest FAILS!  They get a 404 stamp from Simply Kinder!

We have all seen that pumpkin with the hundreds of sprouts sticking out.  “Just throw in some soil and the pumpkin will start sprouting right in your pumpkin.”  Yeah… did that.  Pumpkin was smelly and rotting and most likely a health concern for a classroom!  We had to throw it away and move on! It became an lesson in what a pumpkin does when it rots instead of what a sprouting pumpkin plants! Oh and it smelled!!!  No bueno.  Am I alone here?  Has anyone got it to work?

The other Pinterest Fail for me.  Saw in Pinterest is where they planted seeds in these little cups.  The seeds began to sprout and the kids took the seeds out and dissected them.  Yeah that never happened in our class either.  The soil got dry and old from watering… how much do you water a tiny tiny plant?  Maybe I did not do it right?  I don’t know but that lesson got trashed and we moved on!
So there you have it!  Planting pumpkins in kindergarten can be easy and fun when planned and executed correctly!  This is what has worked for me.. but by all means do what works for you!
Tell us about it!  What tips do you have to share with us?

15 Comments

  1. Maggie Donnelly

    For the past few years I can never get the pumpkin seedlings to continue growing, even after transplanting. They either die after their seed leaves have come in or after a few of the pumpkin leaves have started to grow. Many years ago I got a couple plants to grow all winter and produce a pumpkin in the spring. I have no idea what I did different. Any suggestions? I am in Alaska so have to keep plants in my classroom with a south facing window.

    Reply
  2. OfficialAmy (@officialamysps)

    You can actually peel the “shell” off the pumpkin seeds to speed up the germinating process. It’s OK if you damage a little bit of the inside, as that part actually grows into the leaves and will just grow back. You can germinate in a plastic bag and put the bag near a window, This will also speed up the germinating process, As the seed will get warmer this way.

    Reply
  3. Debbie

    In order to keep from over watering I cover the plants with plastic. This keeps the soil moist and the students can still see what is happening. We uncover twice a day and look more closely.

    Reply
  4. S. Con3

    I’m currently doing this project with my daughter! We’re using the dirt in the pumpkin method. Much to my surprise it’s going really well. I’m actually trying to figure out how to replant it into something larger.

    Reply
  5. Jessica Benson

    We actually have seeds growing out of our pumpkin this year!!! We put the soil in 1 1/2 weeks before Halloween and have a good 2+ dozen sprouts.

    Reply
  6. Sallie

    Hey! Do you remember about how long it took for the pumpkins to being to actually show some growth? Is it quick like when you do pinto beans?

    Reply
    • Jennifer @ Simply Kinder

      So at about a week we would begin to see a sprout and some good roots. After that, we usually sent them home. I personally don’t have a green thumb to care for them past that (or the space) and I think technically the time to plant pumpkin is in the Spring. It’s more of an activity to experience the life cycle while learning about pumpkins. =) Hope that helps and thanks for stopping by. =)

      Reply
  7. Julie Bowen

    I have done the cut open the pumpkin and throw in the soil experiment for 4 years now and it has worked every year!

    Reply
  8. Gabi

    I would really like to do this with my students this year. About what time of year did you plant your seeds? I live in Arizona so I am trying to find the best time to plant so that we at least have sprouts before October is over.

    Thank you.

    Reply
  9. Palma Sarah

    I haven’t planted pumpkins in the past, but I will this year. Thank you for the great post! LOVE your pumpkin book too! Palma from kfundamentals.blogspot.com

    Reply
  10. Becoming_a_teacher

    I did something even worse! (But it was actually very cool.) We read the book “Pumpkin Jack,” (mom makes the boy throw his Jack o’Lantern away, he puts it in the garden, it decomposes and becomes a new pumpkin next year). We put our Jack o’Lantern in a tub with soil, put the lid on, and watched it decompose. No smell because of the lid. I took pictures and we wrote about our observations. Took forever, but it did sprout! But the decomposing part was wild!!!

    Reply
  11. jbales

    I definitely had your experience! I had done this whole, exciting lead up to what was suppose to happen,and my children watched that pumpkin daily only to get a big, smelly, rotten pumpkin. Thanks for sharing- now I know I’m not alone. 🙂

    Reply
    • Maleni Quimiro

      If you use the small pie pumpkins they don’t rot. Only the big ones do 🙂

      Reply
  12. Heidi Martinez

    I got the planting seeds in a pumpkin to work. I didn’t take the top off and dump the soil in though. I cut it in half the other way and added the soil. I was able to use the pumpkin to show the kids what the inside parts looked like and use it to plant the seeds. No waste :). I know 3-4 other teachers at my school did it the same way and got it to work.

    Reply

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