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Pumpkin Tales--Thematic Unit for K-1

Pumpkin Tales--Thematic Unit for K-1

About this Daily Classroom Special
Pumpkin Tales was written by Marilyn Chadwick. Marilyn is involved in a collaboration between the New York City Board of Education and the United Federation of Teachers.


Irish legend has it that there was once a man named Jack, who tricked the Devil into saying that he would never claim Jack's soul. When Jack died, he was refused entrance at the Gates of Heaven because he was a miser and a drunkard. Jack went back down to Hell because there was no where else to go. When he arrived, the Devil, remembering his promise, refused to accept him. Jack said, "Where shall I go?" The Devil answered, "Back where you came from," and he threw Jack a burning coal from the fires of Hell to light his way. Jack just happened to be eating a turnip at the time, so he put his burning coal inside the turnip to keep his hand from scorching. From that time on, Jack's soul wandered the Earth looking for a place to rest. On All Hallows Eve, when the souls of the dead returned to Earth, he became known by all those who saw him as "Jack O' Lantern."

While it was the Irish immigrants who brought this tale with them, the pumpkin is indigenous to the Americas. There is evidence that members of the squash family were cultivated by the Native Americans before corn. In Massachusetts, the English settlers adopted the Narragansett word 'accutasquash' for this vegetable. The French explorer, Cartier, wrote home about a gros melon which became known as a pompion, or pumpkin.

Pumpkins are just one of the family of winter squash which are commonly found today, but the pumpkin is associated with Halloween and Thanksgiving in a way that other members of the family are not.

Pumpkin Activities for the Classroom

Carve a Jack O' Lantern
Take a sharp knife, or a pumpkin cutter (a serrated edge knife made especially for carving pumpkins) and cut a circle around the stem. Lift this piece off and scoop out the seed and pulp. Save. Draw a face on the pumpkin. Cut out the eyes, nose and mouth. Put a candle inside or a small flashlight and light it for the party. (Please remember to use common sense when dealing with the knife.)

Clean the pulp from the seeds by washing them in a colander under a strong stream of running water. Dry the seeds thoroughly. Save a few for planting. Place the seeds in a single layer, brush lightly with vegetable oil, sprinkle salt and bake in the oven until crispy. Serve them at the party.

Peel the rind from the pumpkin. Cut the meat into one inch cubes and steam until soft. Drain, mash and freeze. Use the pumpkin puree to make a pie or muffins for Thanksgiving.

Fill a six inch flower pot with a mixture of potting soil and sterile soil mix. Dampen thoroughly. Plant the pumpkin seeds one half inch deep. The seeds will germinate in a week to ten days. Pumpkin vines grow quickly and need sun. Keep the soil moist and fertilize with half strength liquid fertilizer every two weeks. After six to eight weeks, the plants will begin to flower. Pumpkins will not develop indoors, but the children will have observed the life cycle of the plant from fruit to flower.


In addition, the plant itself can be used to demonstrate phototropism and thigmotropism.

Phototropism: A plant's ability to turn itself toward the sun in order to absorb maximum light.

Thigmotropism: A vining plant's ability to find a support and cling.


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