We recently took a field trip to the grocery store with a small group of our elementary students. The mission was to gain experience navigating the different sections of the store, read price differences, read the ingredients and specifics of product labels, observe the employees conducting different tasks, and to draw the students’ attention to the variety of seasonal products available to connect those items with the greater theme of the shifting season.
Once we arrived at Whole Foods, the students were immediately drawn to the large collection of pumpkins the store arranged as a seasonal special. Reflecting upon their interests, we purchased a pumpkin with intentions to make pumpkin butter with a recipe provided by Whole Foods. Together, we found the remaining ingredients, purchased the products, and headed back to school to join their classmates.
Once we arrived back at the school, the other children were eager to begin slicing and dicing the pumpkins. We started by researching the best way to cut the pumpkins and carving them. The children thoroughly enjoyed the messy process of carving and scraping the pumpkin flesh. After we cleaned the pumpkin guts out, the children collected the seeds, washed, salted, boiled, roasted them, and then prepared the pumpkin slices to be roasted. We discussed the differences in tablespoon, teaspoon, cup, and “pinch” while the students measured each ingredient in order to make the pumpkin butter.
After we made the pumpkin butter, everyone joined in and built yogurt parfaits using the toasted pumpkin seeds along with Craisins and crushed chocolate covered pretzels.
This project is important because it highlights an important component in the Reggio Emilia approach: child led learning. While it was fun and the children had a chance to get messy, engage in sensory play, and learn some real-world skills (like measuring, mixing, and preparing food for yourself), this project began from the children’s interest in pumpkins. Our goal is to always provide opportunities to provoke children to further explore the world and communicate their knowledge in multiple ways.
During this project, the students expanded their knowledge in multiple subjects, from mathematics, science, writing, reading, and life skills. We often discussed which is more, 1 tablespoon or 1 teaspoon, or ½ cup or ¼ cup, and the children divided the pumpkin in slices which created an opportunity to further explore division and the concept of how many parts make a whole. The children were encouraged to describe each ingredient and compare it to the others and we hypothesized on what the end product would taste like and feel like if one of the ingredients was left out. We also discussed how pumpkins have many many seeds while apples, bananas, and oranges don’t have as many as pumpkins too. The children were also able to engage in a sensory experience with hands-on activities like carving the pumpkin, discussing what they thought a pumpkin would smell like and what it actually smells like, scraping out the seeds, observing the color change as we added each ingredient, feeling the difference between the slimy and chunky pumpkin insides compared to the pumpkin butter puree. This activity also required the students to write the recipe and follow the recipe’s instructions. In the end, it was a delicious treat that fostered a sense of pride in the children because they were able to enjoy a snack that they prepared themselves. Cooking and baking is a great way for parents to learn with their children, and we encourage you to cook with your kids! Make sure to include them in everything, from picking the recipe, shopping for ingredients, measuring, mixing, and serving while discussing each step along the way.