Planting Pumpkins in Kindergarten

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!

This activity goes well with these resources:

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?
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