Pumpkin Patrol - Science October 15 2009

Science is one of my favorite subjects, especially in elementary school. Using science experiments in your classroom reaches kids in ways that no other subject in your curriculum.  Plus, exploring pumpkins through scientific inquiry is just plain fun!

Vocabulary

For this section, add science-based words to your Pumpkin vocabulary, such as germinate, soil, seeds, water, sunlight, photosynthesis, roots, shoots, ground, sprout, vines, leaves, buds, flowers, green, yellow, orange,  and, of course, PUMPKIN. The words you use depend upon the level of your students, so add and take away from this list as you like.

Scientific Inquiry

It's important to start out your experiments with a clear direction of where your students are going and what they're looking for. I've included the the basic parts of the Scientific Process.

List each piece of the Scientific Process on a piece of chart paper, leading your students through each one as the experiment progresses.

The Elements of the Scientific Process
Question
Hypothesis (best guess about what the result will be)
Procedure
Observation
Results
Conclusion (was the question answered?)

In order to keep track of their results, prepare a science journal for each of your students. An easy way is to use 5 to 6 pieces of white paper, fold horizontally and staple. Label the front "Science Journal" and each student's name, and use throughout the unit.

How Does Your Pumpkin Grow?

If you would like to perform this experiment as a demonstration instead of dealing with 20+ plastic cups, the Sprout and Grow Window is a great tool. And, the materials needed for the experiment are already included!

A side note - I have used bean seeds for this experiment because they germinate quickly. For your purposes, you could use pumpkin seeds, but I don't know how quickly they sprout.

Question
How long does it take for a bean (or pumpkin) seed to germinate?

Hypothesis
Have students predict and write down how many days it will take

Materials
One clear plastic cup, one paper towel, and two bean seeds per student

Procedure
Have your students put their names on their cups in permanent marker
Have your students dampen their paper towels and wad them up into the bottom of the cup
Nestle the seed(s) on a side of the cup, between it and the paper towel
Keep track of the progress of the seeds each day with your students, making a note of when seeds sprout and sketching each day's progress

Don't forget to go back to the Scientific Process you started with your students, comparing observations and conclusions. For further processing, especially after a trip to the pumpkin patch or if your sprouts flower, use this Pumpkin Booklet, making a photocopy for each student.

Will the Pumpkin Sink or Float?

This experiment would probably work best in small groups.

Question
Will my pumpkin sink or float?

Hypothesis
Have students predict and write down what they think the result will be (and why)

Materials
A small bucket for each group, along with a variety of fruits or vegetables (see Pumpkin Record)
A pumpkin for each group
A photocopy of the Pumpkin Record, per person or per group

Procedure
Lead students through the Question and Hypothesis pieces of the Scientific Process using the Pumpkin Record
Give directions and behavior expectations regarding completing the experiment, including recording results
Supervise groups as they complete the experiment, then lead the discussion concerning results and conclusions when groups are finished

Dry off the pumpkins and keep them for Pumpkin Patrol - Math, coming up soon!