Cross-curricular theme weeks have taken root in the Lower School at MICDS. This week’s thematic unit was, no surprise, pumpkins! With pumpkin and gourd-related activities across all disciplines, students immersed themselves in these vined, squashy, orange orbs from story time to science.
One centerpiece of the week grew from the book Pumpkin Circle: The Story of a Garden by George Levenson, which details in rhyme the life cycle of a pumpkin, from the time the seed is collected from a pumpkin in the fall, through its planting and growing, and finally harvesting.
Students used and grew their math skills in different ways, such as measuring the height, circumference, and stem of a pumpkin, counting the ribs, estimating the weight, counting seeds, and even rolling them down a hill to check their speed and velocity. JK-12 Math Department Chair Diane Broberg, Lower School Science Teacher Laura Pupillo, and Lower School Coordinator of Instructional Technology Robyn WIlliams, even made a math talk video using many pumpkins grown on campus.
Students prepared early for Pumpkin Week by planting and tending to the pumpkins in the Lower School science courtyard. They had large and small pumpkins and a few volunteer pumpkins from last year’s fourth-grade pumpkin rot experiment. The students loved watching the pumpkins grow and counting them at harvest time.
Junior Kindergarten students designed jack-o-lantern faces for carving. Once carved, they added baking soda and vinegar inside the pumpkin for a foamy surprise eruption. Second graders carved mini pumpkins and used them to race in the Pumpkin Boat Regatta. This project was inspired by a Missouri man who recently broke the Guinness World Record by paddling a giant pumpkin boat down the Missouri River.
It was 3D pumpkins for our third graders! Students used Tinkercad, with help from WIlliams and Pupillo, to create catapults that were perfect for a Friday morning launch. For the math crossover, students compared how weight impacts launch distance—heavy (candy pumpkin that is about the same dimensions but is three times heavier) vs. light pumpkin (3D pumpkin). Fourth grade continued with the popular theme, “How to Rot a Pumpkin the Fastest.” For an added storytelling component, students read the book Rotten Pumpkin – A Rotten Tale in 15 Voices by David M. Schwartz and chose parts of the story to record themselves in fun voices. Pupillo shared, “The book covers the entire decomposition process of a pumpkin, including scavengers and various types of molds and yeast. The kids loved working with this book!”
Lower School Literacy Coordinator Liz Crowder helped facilitate a storybook decorating activity involving pumpkins. “Each class voted on their favorite character from their favorite read-aloud book for their grade level. Then, they decorated their pumpkin as their favorite storybook character. The pumpkin characters were announced and displayed at our Pumpkin Week assembly. They are so cute!” she said.
Many students also enjoyed pumpkin-themed activities in the library, reading books such as Stumpkin by Lucy Ruth Cummins, The Ugly Pumpkin by Dave Horowitz, and The Rough Patch by Brian Lies. While our youngest learners enjoyed pumpkin-themed crafts, the older students explored pumpkin and Halloween-themed digital resources. Lower School Librarian Thomas Buffington said, ‘We love using our Library resources to connect to our thematic weeks to provide a holistic learning experience for the students!”
Art was a game of “How many ways you can create a pumpkin?” with Lower School Art Teacher Sarah Garner. Our littlest learners painted still-life pumpkins and learned a batik process using chalk and oil pastels to make a surprise pumpkin finish. Second and fourth graders learned about the artist Yayoi Kusama, who loved creating pumpkins with dots. Students dotted their pumpkins and added them to an “infinity background.” Third graders gained perspective by drawing a pumpkin with oil pastels from a birds-eye view.
In P.E., Lower School Teachers Jim Lohr and Susan Orlando had the students burn off their Halloween energy with games like Steal the Candy, Poison Mats, Pumpkin Patch Throwdown, Ghostly Pumpkins, and Monster Ball. All fresh takes on old favorites but with a pumpkin and ghoulish twist!
This week’s highlight performance was the Halloween assembly. Lower School Music Teacher Dr. Katy Nichols led each grade in sharing spooky, silly, and chilling songs before breaking into a zombie dance to the song Thriller. In between performance prep and recovery, students enjoyed songs about pumpkins and leaves with creepy props.
The grand finale of Pumpkin Week was an afternoon of exciting pumpkin presentations and scientific reactions for all Lower School students to enjoy. JK led the Lower School in a sing-a-long of Five Little Pumpkins, and representatives from each class presented their character pumpkins from their favorite books. Then Broberg, Pupillo, and JK-12 Science Department Chair Paul Zahller rolled out some astounding science experiments. They used a Handibot to carve an MICDS Ram logo into a pumpkin, helped a pumpkin erupt with “elephant toothpaste” (a gas, liquid, and dish soap concoction), recruited teachers to help with their pumpkin projectile launcher (a gigantic slingshot), and made a pumpkin explode using a physical reaction.
At the assembly, Broberg told the students, “Science, technology, engineering, and math are all very close friends. Just like us, they can work together to accomplish things faster and more accurately or to improve the outcome.”
Weaving pumpkins into all areas of the Lower School helped make it a meaningful experience for students and teachers alike. From Pumpkin Circle: The Story of a Garden, “We can be sure of this: It’s a circle without end. It’s pumpkin seeds to pumpkins to pumpkin seeds again!” See you next year!