Category: nature

Pumpkins

By , November 11, 2011 6:07 pm

It’s fall and a perfect time to study pumpkins!

First I read the class Pumpkin Circle: The Story of a Garden by George Levenson and Shmuel Thaler, a lovely book about the life-cycle of a pumpkin.  The photos in this book are gorgeous.  We talked about the circularity of life.

Next I cut open a pumpkin at school and had the children identify the rind, the pulp, the stem, and the seeds.  We then made little Montessori “Parts of the Pumpkin” books.

I explained to the children that we would not waste our pumpkin and we would be eating the pulp and the seeds.  Several of them seemed somewhat aghast at the prospect.

I roasted the seeds in the oven at school so the children could enjoy the lovely smell and hopefully be more encouraged to try them!  Only one child out of a class of twenty-five did not wish to try one, and of all those who tried, only two did not clamor for seconds and thirds.  This was a huge hit!

I took the rest of the pumpkin home and made pumpkin bread with the pulp.  That will be going to school tomorrow and I think all will enjoy it.

In the interest of scientific research we put some of the pulp and a few seeds in a tightly sealed jar.  I labeled it with the date and placed it on the science shelf.  I asked the children to predict what, if anything, would happen to it.  A few predict it will stay exactly the same forever.  A few said it would grow mold.  I told them to inspect it every day to see for themselves.

(Next year we might try this clever version of the decaying pumpkin experiment!)

We also cut the top of a second pumpkin and filled it with dirt.  We watered it and set it in a sunny window to see if the seeds would grow.  I’ll report back on the results.

NOTE (added March 4, 2012):  This turned out wonderfully!  Please see the next post, What We’ve Been Up To for details and a photo of it now!

I dyed some pumpkin seeds red, orange, yellow, and green and set them out in bowls on a tray with some black construction paper.  They have been making pictures and designs with them.

Finally, I put this simple pumpkin color-by-number on the shelf along with a laminated completed one to use as a guide.   It has been popular.

(Oh, and we also painted pumpkins at our school’s annual Fall Festival!!)

 

Sources

Growing in Pre K – Post: Pumpkins

 

Recipes

ROASTED PUMPKIN SEEDS -

Rinse the seeds thoroughly and remove all pulp and strings.  Spread them out and let them dry on paper towels.  Put in the seeds in a bowl and add just a TEENY TINY bit of olive oil to make the seasonings stick (not too much, or they will be greasy).  Toss to coat them in oil, then add seasonings and toss again.  I use Jim Baldridge’s Secret Seasoning (yum!) but you can use anything you like, even just salt.  Some people do cinnamon and sugar, however I like mine savory and have never tried this.  Spread them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Try to spread evenly so very few overlap.  Bake in a 250 degree (Farenheit) oven (this is fairly low heat for those who do not use Farenheit).  Check them after 45 minutes, but they might take an hour to an hour and a half at this temperature to be done.  They are done when crispy seeming and crunch loudly when bitten.  NOTE: They might not brown much, but as long as they crunch, that is OK!

PUMPKIN BREAD -

Ingredients :

  • 1 and 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 plus 1/8 teaspoon kosher (ie. course) salt
  • 1 and 1/3 cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup plus 1 and 1/2  tablespoons canned, unsweetened pumpkin (or fresh pumpkin pulp that has been boiled, or roasted in water and removed from the skin)
  • 1 large egg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (Farenheit, a medium setting for those who do not use Farenheit).  Grease and flour an 8.5 x 4.5 inch loaf pan.  Sift together first 5 ingredients then stir in kosher salt.  Combine sugar, oil, and pumpkin in a large bowl.  Beat at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth.  Add egg, beating until well-blended.  Gradually add dry ingredients, beating at low speed until blended.  Pour batter into pan.  Bake for about 1 hour and 5 minutes or until loaf is golden and a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean.  (NOTE – I start checking on it early.  It will be dry if you over-bake.)  Let cool in pan on wire rack for 15 minutes, then remove from pan.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Book Recommendation: “An Environmental Guide from A to Z” (Tim Magner)

By , November 16, 2010 3:08 pm

There are a lot of junky books out there, but every now and then, an unknown gem comes my way and makes me very thankful that I get to review books on occasion!  An Environmental Guide from A to Z by Tim Magner (Green Sugar Press 2009) is just such a book.

Typical A-B-C- books are usually geared towards babies and toddlers and often leave older readers and adults cold.  This book is a happy exception. 

Picture an A-B-C book for older children with each letter representing an environmental or nature-related concept or important person.  Each word is fully explained in easy to understand terms and is beautifully illustrated by Aubri Vincent-Barwood.  “D is for Darwin,” “F is for Fossil Fuels, “  “I is for the Inuit Eskimos,”  “R is for Reduce and Reuse.”

Each letter also has a “Did you know?” section with an interesting fact or two related to the topic.  For example, in the “B is for Bees and Insects” section:  “A bee’s buzz comes from their wings flapping 200 times per second!”

I even learned a few things:  “Q is for Vo Quy,” “L is for Paolo Lugari” (read the book for more information) or “the average ‘piece of food’ travels 1,500 miles before it reaches your mouth….”  How about:  “with solar panels, Germany has nearly cut their use of coal in half” and “Denmark gets more than 20% of its electrical power from wind farms.”  I love it when I find a well-written childrens’ book that actually also teaches me a thing or two.

Perhaps my favorite part of the book is that it doesn’t just limit itself to teaching facts, ideas and concepts, but it also asks questions encouraging children to think about their own lives.  Each letter has at least one little oak leaf with questions on it, or sometimes activity ideas.  “What’s the biggest tree in your neighborhood?  How old is it?”  Many of these questions will encourage kids to get outside:  “Watching the animals in your neighborhood, can you see how they are built to survive?”

If you are looking for an informative and interesting book that teaches about the environment and “green living”  without being preachy, then I encourage you to take a look at An Environmental Guide from A to Z. Many thanks to Tim for sending me a copy.  This is a review copy that will remain on our shelf to be enjoyed for a long time to come!

Book Giveaway! – “Zeke, Ky and the Mountain Stream” (Gwynneth Beasley)

By , July 21, 2010 1:26 pm

One of the really fun things about blogging is all the people you “meet.”  Recently a former Unplugged Project participant, blogger and now published author Gwynneth Beasley (hooray Gwynneth – congrats!!) contacted me to see if I would be interested in hosting a giveaway of one of her books.  When she mentioned that it was about the very unplugged activity of camping (unless you are in a 40 foot RV with satellite TV of course, LOL) I was definitely sold.

One night at dinner Zeke announced, ‘I have made a decision everybody.  We are going camping this weekend and no one is bringing the computer, the phone, their mobile, the TV or the DVD.’

- quote from p.1, Zeke, Ky, and the Mountain Stream

Yes, Zeke, Ky and the Mountain Stream is perfect for an Unplug Your Kids review and giveaway!

Gwynneth kindly sent me two copies all the way from Australia, one for my family to read, and the other to give away to an Unplug Your Kids reader.

I wasn’t able to show the book to my children right away since they were camping for a few days with their father.  A happy coincidence I thought!  When the kids returned from a fun camping adventure of their own, they were ripe to read the tale of Zeke and Ky’s camping trip.  They all enjoyed the book and I found them picking it up and rereading it on their own later, even my older children.

Zeke, Ky and the Mountain Stream has a large, easy to read font and the vocabulary is fairly basic which would make it a good choice for younger readers who are just transitioning to “chapter books.”  Each page contains just a few sentences of text and a simple photo illustration.  The book length (18 pages) is also great for younger children with short attention spans.  It would make a wonderful read-aloud book too and could inspire lots of conversations about camping, nature, the power of positive thinking, and the value of unplugging once in a while!

Gwynneth Beasley is also the author of five other Zeke and Ky books, all of which involve nature and typical childhood, “unplugged” experiences.  We’ll be getting a few more of these!

You can check out the links to them all below.  Also, be sure to visit Gwynneth’s blog: www.gwynnethbeasley.typepad.com for some inspiring posts and crafty ideas.

GIVEAWAY

  • To enter the giveaway for my free copy of Zeke, Ky, and the Mountain Stream, simply leave a comment with a quick summary of a favorite outdoor or camping activity that you do with your children (or grandchildren, nieces, nephews, etc.).
  • For an additional chance(s) to win this book, you can subscribe to Unplug Your Kids (link is in upper right sidebar), and/or to Gwynneth Beasley’s blog (link is in her sidebar).  Just leave another comment here to let me know.
  • The giveaway ends on Wednesday, July 28th at 8:00PM PST.  I’ll select a random winner based on all entries, and announce the winner on Thursday, July 29th!


Comments are now closed. Winner to be announced tomorrow (July 30th). Thank you all!!

Happy Earth Day! (April 22nd)

By , April 21, 2008 8:32 pm

I am not supposed to be online much this week since it is Turnoff Week and I am the creator/host of the 2nd Annual TV-Turnoff Week Blog Challenge (must set a good example you know!), so I will simply give you a few quick “free association” links to some worthy children’s books that come to mind when I think of Earth Day:

And here is an inspirational one by Rachel Carson for adults, that I just love:

If you want, you can read my full post about this book here.

Also: For more on kids and the environment, please see my post on Raising Environmentally Aware Children.

Happy Earth Day to all, and to all a good night!

A Seed is Sleepy (Aston, Long) – Book Recommendation

By , March 1, 2008 10:19 am

Spring is in the air which means that seeds of all kinds will soon be sprouting: flower seeds, tree seeds…weed seeds. (Big sigh.)

Now is a good time to teach your little ones a bit more about seeds. I can’t think of a more lovely book for this purpose, than A Seed Is Sleepy by Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long.

This book is packed with interesting facts about seeds. Each two page-spread presents a one sentence fact, followed by a short explanation. For example the first page says: “A seed is sleepy.” Followed by: “It lies there, tucked inside its flower, on its cone, or beneath the soil. Snug. Still.” The information is presented in a sweet, almost poetic way that makes it easily accessible and enjoyable for a variety of ages.

What really makes this book truly wonderful though, are Sylvia Long’s amazing illustrations reminiscent of old, botanical prints. Her colorful paintings are incredibly rich and detailed. Ms. Long has a real eye for seeing and reproducing the beauty and wonder of even the simplest natural objects.

We love this book so much, that next on my wish list is Ms. Aston and Ms. Long’s other collaboration: An Egg Is Quiet

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