The Great Pumpkin Challenge: 7 Projects to Try This Fall

Slimy, silly, delicious learning ideas!

We recently challenged WeAreTeachers readers and fans to come up with creative ways to use pumpkins in the classroom. We love the results! Here are seven ideas to try this fall.

1. Make a Snack Bowl and Teach Kids About Seeds
Want a creative way to serve soup or another snack for home or your class? Just carve out a pumpkin! Chandra Baron from Colorado gave us this idea, and she loves to use it to serve tomato soup and beef stew to her family. We suggest you adapt her idea for your classroom, serving another yummy treat inside like applesauce, Jell-O or popcorn. Keep the lid on your pumpkin until you’re ready.

Teaching Moment: Fall is the time to talk about seeds from nature, and the pumpkin seed is an excellent one for kids because it’s so big. You could even plant a few to do an experiment on how long it takes them to sprout.


2. Play Checkers and Encourage Math
A can of spray paint and mini pumpkins can give you an instant checkers set for your classroom. The teacher who made this project—thanks Linda Lancaster from Oklahoma—sewed the board together with scrap material she had. But if you don’t have access to a sewing machine, your students could also make a board out of paper or with chalk.

Teaching Moment: Tape or attach math problems to your checkers board, so when the kids land on a square, they have to answer a problem. The checkers game already teaches logic and reasoning, but now you just made it a math game too!


3. Get Slimed and Practice Mixing Colors
This pumpkin idea came from Destination Nature. They also have owl, ghost and Frankenstein designs, so check them out. Otherwise, here’s the recipe for the pumpkin slime:

Mixture 1
Combine 1 cup of water, 1 cup of Elmer’s white glue and your choice of food coloring. The obvious color of choice for pumpkin slime would be orange, but you might want to make some blue or pink pumpkins instead.

Mixture 2
Combine 1 1/3 cup of warm water and 4 teaspoons of Borax.

Once you have both mixed, slowly pour Mixture 1 into Mixture 2. This is where it gets really fun. Have your students dig in and knead the slime for a few minutes until it’s a good consistency. Once it feels like slime, they can put it in a little cup (you can buy plastic ones in bulk on Amazon), and they can decorate their pumpkin!

Teaching Moment: Use this opportunity to teach kids about color combinations. For instance, red and yellow make orange. What other color combinations can you let them experiment with?


4. Create Pumpkin Potion and Get a Science Lesson
Dry ice is the secret ingredient in this pumpkin project from Chandra Baron in Colorado. You can re-create it in just a few easy steps.

  1. Hollow out a medium to large pumpkin, and decorate the outside with stickers, paint, markers, glow paint or anything else you’d like.
  2. Find a glass bowl that fits securely on top of the pumpkin. Cut little spaces every few inches around the bowl so the fog can spill over the edges.
  3. Remove the bowl, and place a pound of dry ice directly into the bottom of the pumpkin. Immediately fill with hot water. Make sure you add enough hot water so the dry ice will stay wet but not overflow.
  4. Now fill your glass bowl with water, food coloring and whatever other “potions” you’d like. Another idea is to fill it with punch to serve at your party. Then you can let students take turns at the pumpkin cauldron.

Teaching Moment: Dry ice is a science teaching moment all by itself. Help kids understand how and why dry ice works. If you need a little help in that area, take a look at this website.


5. Create Pumpkin Jars and Learn About Volume
Here’s another project where paint can go a long way. If you upcycle jars, you can do this inexpensively. Create a few for classroom decoration, or let each student make one. Here are some tips for re-creating this on your own. Thanks to Sarah Shelmidine from New York for this idea. You can buy these jars and other upcycled items from her Etsy store.

  • Paint everything in steps, making sure to let each coat dry before you move on to the next.
  • Use a good sealer after you’ve painted to keep the jars from peeling.
  • Don’t paint the inside at all. Make sure you seal it off well so you don’t get paint or sealer where food will be.
  • Place a piece of felt on top of the jars, and then hot-glue your brown stem on top. This will help it hold better.

Teaching Moment: Use these jars to hold a “guess the object” game, helping students understand important things like volume. You could have a few different objects in each jar—like candy corn, pennies and plastic spider rings. Help the kids understand how to make an educated guess.


6. Create Pumpkin Art and Teach Recycling
This idea came to us from Monica Tucker in Tennessee. She is truly a pro when it comes to upcyling jars. Her Etsy store has dozens of ideas for giving new life to jars. With this one, she pulled together canning rings to make a pumpkin shape and then completed the look by putting cinnamon sticks in the middle. You can paint the rings, or do what Monica did by gluing ribbon.

Teaching Moment: The most ordinary objects can be great for recycling and upcycling. Teach your students to look for ways to reuse materials. This is a great life lesson that encourages recycling at the same time.


7. Make Pumpkin Pie Cookies and Do Word Problems
Cookies and pumpkin pie are a genius combination. Traci from Virginia is a cookie-making machine and has an Etsy shop dedicated to baked goods. (You can even buy these cookies from her directly.) This is an easy project to do with students because the base is just a triangular-shaped cookie. Plus, you can’t really go wrong with the decorations. Just make the cookie shapes ahead of time, and take them in for decorating. Here are her tips for making sure this project is a success in your classroom.

  • Use edible markers to draw a template on your cookies before you decorate.
  • You can also find food-safe paintbrushes to paint platters. Kids will love this!
  • To give more depth to the cookies, let sections of the icing dry before starting the next section. It’s a good art-teaching moment.

Teaching Moment: When trying to figure out how to turn cookies into a learning opportunity, your best bet is to go the math route. Put together some word problems for your students to do, and make eating the cookie the end reward!



Posted by Stacy Tornio

Stacy Tornio is a senior editor with WeAreTeachers. Nearly everyone in her family is a teacher. So she decided to be rebellious and write about teachers instead.

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