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We had quite an experience with our pumpkins. First, we measured the height of the pumpkins from the floor to the top of the stem. We also weighed them with a scale. We made conjectures about the pumpkins based on their appearance. For instance, we reasoned that the bigger pumpkins would have more seeds inside (incorrect) and generally weigh more (correct) as compared to the smaller pumpkins. We also reasoned that the white pumpkins may have lighter colored interior flesh as opposed to the dark orange pumpkins. This was also correct. White pumpkins have grapefruit colored flesh inside and an almost cantaloupe smell to them. Finally, we cut the pumpkins open and counted their seeds.

After we recorded all of our findings on a chart, we turned the pumpkins into jack-o’-lanterns and put them outside. We would have toasted the seeds but that idea went by the wayside. Too much excitement going on.

Weighing Pumpkins

Weighing Pumpkins

Counting Seeds, Hundreds of Seeds

Counting Seeds, Hundreds of Seeds

We purchased three pumpkins, a gourd and a “glitter” pumpkin night light from our local farm stand. I was careful to choose both white and orange pumpkins to point out the wide variation in pumpkin species. Blue pumpkins had been present at the farm stand. However, these pumpkins were huge and likely cost prohibitive. Their skin was also tough and it caused the pumpkin to not look a good candidate for carving. The gourd was for a an art project unrelated to the pumpkins. And, my son just can’t help himself around glitter, but that’s a different story.

We made a trip to the library to read up on pumpkins. We have focused on plant and animal lifecycles in the past. Consequently, I sifted through a variety of books that focused on the growth and development from seed to finished product. Here are a few of my finds:

I also identified a great book that touched on the history of the pumpkin and its role in various cultural festivals and lore.

And, the reading list would not be complete without a bedtime story that mirrored the excitement that my son felt as he picked a pumpkin during the day and set it outside to light the night.

Continuing on with the fruit of the season and harvest theme, we switched easily from apples to pumpkins. To get in the swing of things, we went pumpkin picking at a local farm stand.




I fondly recall mention of Johnny Appleseed back in my own childhood days. Over time, though, I forgot that Johnny Appleseed was actually a real person. Instead, I came to think of him as a Pecos Bill or John Bunyan type of character; more legend than history. One of my recent library finds was an old book on the man, and it was as revelatory as it was boring. It was boring in so far as the book was written in a style that was as dry as could be. It was completely matter of fact on the subject of a very bizarre and complex man. Though I wanted to regal my son with the biography of this colorful individual, I felt that I was torturing him with the over dull story book with very busy pictures. Fortunately, I came across Shelley Duvall’s Tall Tales & Legends video series. The series borders on the hokey, and it’s filled with puns (yawn). However, it is honestly a fun video to watch. Martin Short’s presentation really brought this complicated man to life, and my son was captivated by the man’s struggles with nonconformity and wanting to belong. It’s definitely worth half an hour or so of your life.

Steven Kellogg's Johnny Appleseed

Steven Kellogg's Johnny Appleseed

Shelley Duvall's Tall Tales & Legends

Shelley Duvall's Tall Tales & Legends

I debated over whether or not to toss the apples into the backyard for squirrels to eat. However, I made a last minute decision to create apple crisp. What a mistake. My son had a ball cutting, pouring, and mixing various ingredients. Unfortunately, he is quite used to processed food. The resulting mush–though quite tasty–was a bit too unappetizing in appearance for him to try. He literally begged NOT to eat the crisp. LOL. I must admit that the mushy, beige appearance overpowered the taste factor, and I ended up tossing out all but a small batch of the concoction.

Making Apple Crisp

Making Apple Crisp


The Thrill is Gone

The Thrill is Gone

Well, it’s time to put our apples to work. Thanks to LessonPlanet, we had a handy dandy Apple Observation chart all ready to fill out. This chart prompts kids to compare colors, dimensions and taste of various apples. The orchard that we visited had roughly six varieties, so we sacrificed one of each type to science. Sticky notes with numbers were laid out across the table and one apple from each “species” was paired with a number. My son then recorded observations for each apple on the chart.
Apple Science
Apple Science
Apple Science

We are fortunate to live quite near to quite a few apple groves or orchards. Apple picking is apparently a seasonal excursion for many families in the area. We decided to join in the fun and pick apples at a location close to home. First, I was surprised by the sheer cost of apples. They ain’t cheap! Well, they are if you buy them in the store. However, picking one’s own apples is downright exorbitant. Next, I was amazed by the amount of mosquitos and other biting bugs that swarmed around the trees. The bug situation reminded me of camping by a swamp in the summer. Not for me. Finally, the quality of the apples was lacking. That was the biggest disappointment. I apparently suffered from the delusion that handpicked apples would taste exponentially better than store bought apples. However, the handpicked apples we took home were bruised with animal bites and soft spots. Nevertheless, I think this could become a transition. I just have to re-calibrate my expectations for next year.

Hitching a Ride

Hitching a Ride


Apples Galore

Apples Galore


Getting Down to Business

Getting Down to Business


Passing the Smell Test

Passing the Smell Test

Continuing on with the fall theme, I decided to move away from animals to plant life. Birds (and other migrating creatures) had some appeal, but it was limited. There was no immersive experience to be had with the birds and similar, because there was simply no way to taste, touch, listen to and/or smell them. My son is very hands on, so we needed something that he could really experience on a up close and personal level. Apples (and trees by extension) seemed like a great fit. We basically segued from one theme to another under the premise that plants also undergo changes during the fall season. Fruits come into fruition. Harvest occurs. The plants power down, and then a dormant phase ensues much like migration in animals. Sounded plausible!