Ms. Ruiz’s preschool class at the Fairmont Anaheim Hills Campus got into the Halloween spirit earlier this month with an exciting pumpkin-themed lesson. Ms. Ruiz used the festive fall activity to incorporate lessons about the five senses and plant life.
“I love everything about this lesson,” Ms. Ruiz shared. “I love that we can get messy, cover science, explore sensory, and have fun!”
During the lesson, students used their five senses to feel the pumpkin’s weight, slimy veins, and slippery seeds, hear the sounds produced from squishing its insides and drumming on its skin, smell its sweet and sometimes not so fresh odor, see its seeds with the assistance of magnifying glasses for a closer look, and taste yummy pumpkin baked goods. At the end of the activity, Ms. Ruiz carved the pumpkin into a jack-o’-lantern for Halloween fun and to further discuss the five senses.
“We talk about what [the jack-o’-lantern] would utilize his features for, mouth and tongue to taste, nose to smell, eyes to see, ears to hear, and make-believe hands to feel,” Ruiz explained about the lesson. “All five senses came together so nicely in this activity.”
As the students put their five senses into practice, Ms. Ruiz spoke with them about plant life, asking where pumpkins grow. She put their critical thinking and reasoning skills to the test to help them reach the correct answer.
“We talk about how heavy it is and how that might make it hard for it to grow from a tree,” Ruiz said. “[We discuss] how it has some residue and dirt on its skin so maybe it grows in the ground.”
While students examined the inside of the pumpkin, Ms. Ruiz asked them what the seeds were, using the opportunity to teach them about a plant’s life cycle and what is needed for a seed to successfully grow.
The festive activity was a success and delight. The students talked about their experiences throughout the day and excitedly shared with their parents about the project.
“[They] greeted their parents at pick-up time with something along the lines of, ‘I touched the pumpkin, and it was yucky!'” Ruiz remembers fondly. “I was very proud of how curious and brave they were to remove the veins and seeds from the inside of the pumpkin.”
This was the first time Ms. Ruiz had taught this activity in this way, normally having two separate activities for her five senses lesson and jack-o’-lantern carving.
“Due to fortuitous procrastination to purchase a pumpkin, the two activities collided into one lesson plan spot, and I don’t think I’ll ever teach them separately again!” Ruiz happily shared.
For any teachers or parents hoping to replicate the activity, Ruiz shares some friendly advice.
“If you encounter a child that is experiencing hesitation with any part of [the activity], assure that child that as his/her teacher or parent, you would never do anything with him/her that was unsafe or scary,” Ruiz said. “Model for them how fun it can be and express to them that if they still do not want to participate, that is absolutely okay.”
She also recommends asking a lot of open-ended questions to build critical thinking, and to, of course, have fun!
“For a preschooler to retain any covered material, it has to be entertaining,” said Ruiz. “When doing a lesson that engages their senses, the students remain intrigued, whether they are eager to participate in drumming on the pumpkin to hear how it sounds or totally grossed out at the idea of physically exploring or smelling its veins. Either way, an experience like this is hard to forget.”