Pumpkins Create Real Learning Opportunities
Team Imagination, a group of 60 young students and five teachers at St. Albans City School, used pumpkins to gain a wide range learning experiences this October. The students started with a field trip to Hudak farm, where they got to learn about sustainable farming practices before selecting pumpkins to bring back to school. Hudak’s have kindly partnered with St. Albans City School to showcase diverse local farming methods to hundreds of our youngest students each year.
Once back at school the Imagination 1st graders worked with Farm-to-School coordinator, Heather Smith, to cut out the pumpkin tops and remove the seeds. These seeds were cleaned and dried for counting purposes a day later. 1st grade students were then divided up into clusters and settled at tables to count the thousands of seeds. This task was accomplished by placing large sheets of paper on the table tops and then having students draw circles around clusters of 10 seeds before summing all the clusters on each table. The tallied results were recorded on a white board and shared with the learning community.
A day later, a number of 2nd and 3rd graders went upstairs to the school’s Family and Consumer Sciences kitchen where the pumpkins were prepared for roasting. Farm-to-School coordinator, Smith, and Family and Consumer Sciences instructor, Mary Ellen Lamb, helped students learn how to use kitchen knives to cut up the pumpkins into wedges. This became the perfect opportunity to visit the topic of fractions as each pumpkin was chopped into halves, then quarters and finally eighths. For some students this was the first time that fractions actually had an applied real-life meaning. The wedges were all popped into a preheated oven for another group to process an hour later.
This next group of 2nd and 3rd graders were asked to scoop the cool roasted pumpkin flesh from the skin and then add it to a large bowl. The pumpkin was pureed by the students and then carefully weighed. The goal was to determine how organic “home-processed” pumpkin puree compared in price to canned organic pumpkin puree. The students worked on the math of this comparison and came to the surprising conclusion that the cost was almost identical. An educated discussion about the reasons for this finding was then orchestrated by Mrs. Smith.
Finally, those students not yet directly involved in the previous processing, were included in a cooking session that resulted in fresh pumpkin muffins for the entire team. All our students love having an opportunity to work in a kitchen and create something delicious. For some of our students kitchen experiences at St. Albans City School, in our Farm-to-School and Family and Consumer Sciences programs, are the first time they have ever prepared food. Our staff enjoy connecting students with the food they eat and making that connection a learning experience.
by Mitch Craib - St. Albans City School Wellness Coordinator