Just 8 days away from my due date and I’m definitely getting “baby brain.” It’s hard to go full throttle into each day in second grade while anticipating such a big change for my family at home. After a slow, humdrum morning in reading it was great to celebrate the holiday with my annual “Pumpkin Day” activity and dive into my last moments with my class before I go on maternity leave.
I started the day with three brightly colored pumpkins on our classroom counter. Students oooed and ahhed when they came in and at morning meeting I began reading the story. We made and recorded hypotheses about which pumpkin would have the most seeds; the big, the medium or the small.
During my prep time, I cut round circles around the tops of each of the pumpkins and lay them out on black butcher paper. Next to each one, I put one plate labeled “seeds” and one labeled “pulp.” When the students came in from gym, we mirrored the activities of the characters from the story and began the job of counting our seeds. After assigning groups the children got to work, some timidly shying away from the slimy, stringy pumpkins guts and others jumping right in hands full of muck.
They separated seeds from pulp, washed their hands and recorded their observations in their science notebooks. The pulp was cleared away and the students made piles of ten on the paper to begin the counting process. When the piles were complete, we walked to each group and counted, and students were challenged to count past each new hundred, 10, 20, 30, 40…100, 110…200, 210, 220…300, 310, 320, 330…400, 410, 420, 430, 440…500!
We finished without many problems (besides hearing the sound of a pumpkin being thrown and thudding on the floor…but you can’t win them all!) and I was impressed by my students ability to work cooperatively and complete the experiment! We recorded our conclusions:
Small: 393 Medium: 300 Large: 587
The day ended, a swirl of black paper, seeds, empty pumpkins, ghost lollipop treats, and noisy children. After school, I graded science notebooks (a small loose end to tie up in preparation for my long-term sub) and I was delighted to find pages of hard work in science all trimester cultivating in this fun “Pumpkin Day” investigation. In the daily moments of repeating directions, making up missed work, reteaching center activities, and reminding students to put a punctuation mark or a capital letter, I got to feel proud! Proud of students for doing great work and proud of myself for doing great work too! Though it may seem a small dent in the face of poverty and underperformance, I was reminded that I am filling my classroom with a sense of joy, belonging, curiosity and excitement where there is room to simply wonder; How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin?
P.S. If you want another perhaps more profound moment of this daily work of living and loving in my classroom take a look here. My second proudest, if not my proudest part of the day was a very small conversation that I hope will have a huge impact, that made me feel like, “Wow, I’ve got this, I’m a great teacher!” One of my wiggly boys did not get to be “self-manager” this month and shed a few tears on the way to gym class. I pulled him aside, and my heart sank for his when he acknowledged that he wasn’t a self-manager in first grade and that the cycle seemed to be repeating again this year. I looked him in the eye and told him he had 7 more tries this year and we came up with a game plan. In the hallway after gym, I noticed an opportunity to follow through on his word and I encouraged him to move away from his friends so he wouldn’t talk to them when he wasn’t supposed to. I then enlisted his friends, saying “______ really wants to be self-manager, he isn’t going to sit with you in the classroom or in the hallway but he still wants to be your friend and be with you at lunch and recess. Can you help him?” With their emphatic yeses, I told my buddy that they were on his side and that they would still be his friend even if he didn’t sit by them in the classroom. Although, he’s skeptical, I’m hopeful that as his teammate I can help him to reach his goals. Another small gesture with profound impact! (By the way, this little guy had one of the BEST science notebooks in our class, can’t wait to show him off tomorrow in school!)
P.P.S: None of this to brag but to celebrate the wisdom, love and grace given by God in this dry and weary land and to say thank you for the joy that can come even in the midst of waiting for my babe, and in the wondering, “Does it even matter?”