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Teacher scoops out a day's lessons
A Halloween staple is fodder for the three R's, and more, in this class.
By TOM MARSHALL, Times Staff Writer
Published November 1, 2007
Fourth-grader Ryan Treger places a pumpkin into the water as Michael Hineshoza, right, and Hallie Gill watch to see if it will float. Westside Elementary teacher Mary Smith calls the annual exercise Pumpkinology. To the surprise of some, the pumpkin stayed afloat.
[Maurice Rivenbark | Times]
[Maurice Rivenbark | Times]
Students count and record the number of rings on a pumpkin Wednesday. History was also part of the day's pumpkin-related learning.
SPRING HILL- Most teachers go in one of two directions on Halloween.
Some embrace the holiday - the costumes, the candy, the ghosts and goblins - and get little learning done. Others ignore the holiday, despite all the excitement, and get little learning done.
Mary Smith, a 20-year veteran at Westside Elementary, has long chosen a third way.
"Welcome to Pumpkinology!" she told her fourth-grade class on Wednesday.
Atop every table was a large, orange gourd. Before the morning was over, students would discuss them, measure them, float them, weigh them, scoop out their slimy pumpkin guts, and graph the number of seeds.
Who knew you could find reading, writing and arithmetic within the hallowed confines of a jack-o'-lantern?
"Do we know any real facts about the pumpkin?" Smith began.
"They have a lot of seeds in them," offered student Gwen Koeppelle.
"It shrinks when it rots," added classmate Zack Barnwell. "Because it has a lot of moisture inside."
Their discussion took a quick tangent into geometry - pumpkins are ovals, not circles, they decided - and then a trip back in time. Turns out Native Americans ground pumpkin seeds into flour and made bread.
Then it was outside for a wet discovery in a tub full of water.
"It floats!" said Dylan Shire, as his classmates fished out their bobbing orange experiment.
"Did you think it would float?" asked parent Brandi Schneider.
"No, because it's heavy," admitted Tara Wilshusen.
There were lots of theories on that apparent scientific miracle, and reflections on whether teachers also float. They do, Mrs. Smith said.
Parents were on hand to cut open the pumpkins and make suggestions.
But it was up to students to do the heavy brain work, even calculating diameter. That involved pi - the mathematical kind.
They'd have to wait until another holiday for that other pie, the pumpkin kind.