We celebrated fall again this year with one of my favorite design challenges with K students in collaboration with the technology teacher. We start this lesson with me reading a book entitled The Biggest Pumpkin by Stephen Kroll to all the K classes. One of the problems in the story is finding a way to move the enormous pumpkin to town for a contest. Before that lesson we purchase giant pumpkins for each K class and place them in the main hallway quite a distance from any of the K classrooms. When we finish the story, we tell the students we have a problem and ask them to follow us out to the main hallway and show them their pumpkin. Their problem is to find a way to move their giant pumpkin to their classroom without damaging it in any way and without any adult help. We allow them each to try to lift or move the pumpkin by themselves . When this solution fails, we tell them to think of ways they can safely accomplish this goal. We tell them we will return the next day with a large sheets of paper for them to each draw their solution.
The next day, we arrive with baskets of crayons and long drawing paper which we spread out in the hallways. Each child draws their solution making sure to include all the students in their drawing, since all their classmates must be included in the solution. We return to the classroom and allow each student to explain their drawings . Finally, they vote and the top 3 solutions are chosen. Students will be asked the next day to actually try the solutions, one at a time, if the first one does not work.
I must mention how amazed we always are at the possible solutions they think of and how excited they get when they actually succeed and get their pumpkin into their classroom. We take videos of them shouting and jumping up and down and chanting, ” We did it, we did it, we did it.” They are always so happy and proud of themselves.
Their next job is to estimate how many pumpkin seeds are inside their pumpkin and we chart all of their answers. Then they vote on the many different shapes they want for their jack-o-lantern’s nose, eyes, and mouth. This is the math curriculum connection which includes shapes and estimating. After we cut the top off, they can make another guess for the number of seeds and they can also put their hand inside the pumpkin to feel the seeds. These estimates are logged on the chart next to their first estimate. Finally, we clean the seeds, count them, and place them on number charts with squares numbered 1- 100. The students count the sheets and then find out who had the closest estimate. Another tasty activity to do is to roast the pumpkins seeds and have the students taste them. This is a great curriculum link to a science unit on growing food and demonstrates the food cycle.
While we cut their pumpkins into jack-o-lanterns using the shapes they voted for, the students can make hair for them or any other decorations they decide to use. Each one has its own personality when they are done.
The final activity involves the teacher choosing several students from their classes to come to the makerspace to actually design their solutions using a small plastic pumpkin model. As the media specialist, I only guide them as they create and design their models (prototypes) using any of the supplies found in the makerspace. (see inserts) Once again, the students are so proud of their creations , which are always displayed for the entire school and visitors to see. Displaying their work is vital to the design process and reinforces how valuable creativity is at all ages.