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.

Sunday Recycling Fun

By , October 30, 2011 4:20 pm

Just had to post these boats.  They turned the bathtub into an ocean (think shells, rocks, plastic fish) and created boats out of saved trash:

Mt favorite thing has to be the Jolly Roger that my 5 year-old drew all by herself for her boat!

New Directions

By , October 26, 2011 1:02 pm

 

For anyone alert enough to have noticed that my last post was dated March 18th and it is now October 26th, I can assure you that I am still here on planet Earth! Between a wee taddy bit of “blog burnout” and a new direction in my life, blogging went to the back burner.

The exciting news (for me anyhow) is that I have made a major career shift. Over the years I have been a flight attendant, lawyer, flight instructor, professional pilot, writer, and stay-at-home-Mom. I have now ended my stay-at-home-Mom phase, and have taken a job as a Montessori teacher in a 3 to 6 year-old classroom.

I am just finishing up my Montessori certification, and began work at the start of the school year in August. I have been heavily involved with this little school for eight years as a parent, classroom volunteer, and enthusiastic supporter, so this is an obvious and happy progression for me.  My primary areas of responsibility are Science and Geography/Cultural, which, as you might have guessed by reading my blog, are probably my two most favorite subjects.

So far I am loving my new career.  I feel very fortunate to be spending my days with absolutely the best co-workers and children out there!  I am also excited to personally share many of the ideas from Unplug Your Kids with a wider pool of children.

I have spent a lot of time during my hiatus wondering about the future of Unplug Your Kids. Obviously I have a lot less free time now, and my life focus has shifted a bit.  However I hate to simply abandon the blog, especially after four and a half years of hard work and love!

So the logical solution is to shift the focus of Unplug Your Kids to better align with my present life.  I plan on using Unplug Your Kids as a platform for sharing fun books, teaching ideas, and projects that I discover or create.  Since the blog has really always been about art, science, books, and activities, I don’t think there will be a drastically noticeable change.  There may just be a bit more talk about Montessori than there used to be.

Since many of you who read Unplug Your Kids are homeschooling families, or families seeking supplementary fun and educational activities for their children, I hope that you will welcome this new direction!

Disasters, Kids, Japan, Helping…

By , March 18, 2011 9:47 pm

 

The first thing I did on 9/11 was head down to my local Red Cross to join the giant blood donation line, something I had never done before.  Unfortunately there were not enough survivors to need blood, especially mine that was located way far away in New Mexico.  But of course no one knew that at the time.  I felt shocked, confused, helpless.  The only way to regain an illusion of control over life was to attempt to help in some way.

Children are prone to even more confusion and fear than adults when disasters strike somewhere on our planet.  With very young children, avoiding any TV or radio news coverage in their presence is probably the best solution.

With older children, viewing news together (or, in the case of our family, listening together) and answering questions is a better technique.  Children will hear talk at school that might be sensationalist, inaccurate, or incomplete.  Even those who are home schooled and perhaps more sheltered from school-yard talk, need to learn eventually how to analyze news broadcasts and understand the world.  This will be an important learning moment.

  • Stick to facts.  If there is something you don’t understand, research the answer together.
  • Stress that sometimes media coverage can be exaggerated.
  • Reassure them that such extreme events are rare and that they, and family members, are safe.
  • Brainstorm together ways to help, even if only in a small way.

HELPING (my favorite topic!):

Of course this post is inspired by Japan.  Here are some ways for you and your children to help there:

“Hope Letters will find ways to deliver the messages to local schools and school boards.  The messages may be posted electronically if that is available, placed as a hardcopy journal or broadcasted via local news agencies.  (Hope Letters is currently working to establish these distribution channels.  If you have suggestions, please get in touch with Hope Letters at HopeLettersCanada “at” gmail “dot” com.)”

  • Quick Fundraising Ideas (able to be organized within several weeks at most):

For schools – try bake sales, used book sales (like the one we did for Haiti), a penny war, yard sale, car wash, raffle off something cool (shh… for a good cause, people will buy tickets … even if your prize is really not that cool…), 50/50 fundraiser, guessing game.

For home – How about a lemonade stand, garage sale, birthday parties (donations in lieu of presents), street-side bake sale, car wash.

  • Be sure to donate your money to an official disaster relief organization now working in Japan.

It has been exactly one week since the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.  It has taken me one week to attempt to comprehend what has happened there.  My thoughts are with Japan.

Thrift Store Success!

By , March 9, 2011 7:27 pm

I am not one of these stylishly-dressed women with elegantly-decorated homes who swear they acquired their every single AMAZING possession via flea markets or thrift stores.  Their homes are usually white, their clothing black.  Do you know what I mean?

What is it with all the decorating magazines that feature “Thrift Store Style.”  Clearly those people are not from “these parts.” (Sorry, I am a bit obsessed with this topic.)

I really like thrift stores though.  I don’t like gambling, but I do get a teeny, tiny electric (gambling?) thrill every time I smell that unique thrift store scent.  I walk into a disorganized, messy, smelly space and see Possibilities (and junk). I have the chance of finding a treasure, the next Hope Diamond, or maybe just some cool books (or junk).

Books are my major weakness.  We have so many and we need no more. Yet I still crave the occasional unexpected thrift store book-find to keep me going.  I discovered  Flicka, Ricka, Dicka and Snipp, Snapp, Snurr at the thrift store.  Also, the amazing Cynthia Rylant Cobble Street Cousins series.  I found Science Experiments You Can Eat there too.

Today I went in searching for books for our school’s charity used book sale.  I know, you’re not supposed to SHOP for that!  You are supposed to purge, not acquire.  But I rationalize it this way:  I get the addictive thrill of thrift store book shopping, and when I buy, I have the satisfaction of knowing that my money goes to a good cause.  The books I buy will be sold at a sale benefiting a different good cause!  I am using books to help two worthy charities (and myself because it is fun).

I found a lot of great kids’ books today, but my favorite find was a giant collection of Origami books that had been dropped off mere moments before.  I left the 3D origami books behind (seemed too complicated and time-consuming), but bought nearly all the rest – for $5.00!!  I gave them $10 because it was for our local pet shelter, and it was a much better option for me than adopting yet another cat …

I hope you all like Origami and paper crafts.  I see big inspiration here!

 

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