The Pumpkin Puzzle

Fall is here!  The weather is changing, the leaves are falling, and we are beginning to see pumpkins and other fall produce in the stores and environment around us.

We have been reading books about fall and the children have shown an interest in pumpkins.

We provided the children with a “pumpkin exploring area”.  We put two pumpkins in their reach, and we cut the tops of them so that if they pulled the top off, they could look inside the pumpkin.

 

 


It wasn’t long before the pumpkins were noticed, and the investigation began……….

 

Their initial fascination with the pumpkin was the “lid”.  The children took turns pulling the lid off and fitting it back in.  It was like a puzzle for them, in that they had to line up the lid perfectly so that it could fall back into place…

Along with the observation of the lid, came the discovery of what was inside the pumpkin.  To our surprise, the children were extremely hesitant of touching the seeds or any part of the inside.  They didn’t seem to sure of the looks of it ;0)

However, one of the children discovered that the hollow shape created inside the pumpkin intensified the sound of her voice!

She would yell, “pumpkin!” Then, smile with excitement after she heard the sound of her voice!


They continued to explore the lids by picking them up, looking at what was on the lid and inside the pumpkin, and then placing the lid back on the pumpkin.  This kept their interest for the entire class period.

The children took turns with the lids, talking to each other, showing each other how to do it, and expressing how exciting this new experience was.

The teachers used this opportunity to engage in conversation with the children about what they were seeing, and describing the experience using vocabulary to describe color, texture, and smell.

All of a sudden, one of the children switched things up and placed the “wrong” lid on the pumpkin!  The lid was too small and fell inside the pumpkin.  Time to problem solve! ;0)

We talked about what happened.  The teachers asked the children “what happened?”

We described the situation to the children to encourage conversation and to help them become familiar with more vocabulary.

All of the children became concerned with this “problem” ;0)  How were we going to fix the problem and get the right lid on the right pumpkin?  We continued talking to the children in helping their thought process and encouraging them to continue investigating this problem.

We believe in using these opportunities to help foster problem solving with our children.  We want them to think, we want them to problem solve, we want them to continue to try even if they are not initially successful.   It would have been easy for the teacher to show the children which lid went on what pumpkin, but then we would have been robbing them of the opportunity to discover it on their own.

We observed as the children came to assess the situation.  Each one tried different approaches, communicated with each other, and tried his/her own techniques.  The team work was working wonderfully!  Right before our eyes, our toddlers had created their own team – each one of them contributing to the project, never seeming frustrated but fully engaged in the problem solving.

When finally, we had a breakthrough!  The right lids were on the right pumpkins!

The children were so excited and proud of their accomplishment, that they wanted to do it all over again! ;0)  And so, a group of them continued to play with the lids as though they were a puzzle.

Different discoveries were happening all over the room. Without any spoken words these two children discussed the small lid that had fallen inside the big pumpkin!
One of our students discovered the small white seeds that were inside the pumpkin. He examined the texture and how easily they would slip through his fingers.
We began counting all the seeds as he placed the spilled seeds back inside of the pumpkin.
Done!
Creating instances where the children have the time and freedom to explore with out direction from a teacher allows the children to create their own personal experiences.  This was a wonderful sensory opportunity for the children.  They explored and discovered, made comparisons, increased their vocabulary, talked about size, shape and color, worked together to complete a task, and counted.
This project demonstrated that so much learning could be obtained from a simple pumpkin.
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