The Great Pumpkin Challenge

Don’t Fear the Pumpkins Are Here!

When pumpkin season rolls around a classroom is starting to settle into the familiar rhythm of the academic calendar. Students, parents, and staff have gotten to know each other and the task of learning can begin in earnest.


What better way to celebrate than having a Great Pumpkin Challenge. Second grade and our transitional kindergarten invited parents and lots of innocent pumpkins to find an answer to one of life’s great mysteries: how many seeds are in a pumpkin?


Sensory Details

Second grade is learning how to capture small moments by using sensory details in their writing. Carving pumpkins and counting seeds is a perfect vehicle to explore our senses. The kids helped scrape, cut, and tear out the pumpkin guts. They noted how squishy and slimy the inside of a pumpkin can be. The stem turned out to be rather prickly. We better not describe the smell, some of the pumpkins got sick. Always wash your hands before carving!

Counting Collections

How do you count pumpkin seeds? Do you group the seeds by 1s, 2s, 5s, or 10s? There is no wrong way to count! Students explored and shared their mathematical thinking while having fun. You might have heard about cognitively guided instruction (CGI) and counting collections if you would like to learn more click right here.

The Pumpkin King

The winner of our counting challenge came down with an impressive 540 seeds. The range was 101 to 540 seeds. The mode turned out to be around 455, which also was the median! Maybe most pumpkins have around 455 seeds? We also learned that a pumpkin’s seed count can be predicted by how many lines the pumpkin has on the outside (Shhh! Don’t tell the first graders).


The students now got to carve the pumpkins. Just like there is no wrong way to count, there is no wrong way to carve a pumpkin. The masterpieces turned out as varied as the many characters that make up our diverse school community. Have no fear the pumpkins are here!


Chickens in the School Garden 2016


As you have probably heard, the chickens are here!  After 22 days in the incubator the big day had finally arrived. When we entered the classroom in the morning there were two beautiful black chicks in our incubator. Their feathers were already fluffed up. They probably hatched late at night.  The next arrival came at about 9am and another one at recess.


The class had been very worried because on day 14 the incubator was left open while the class went to the Zoo. This left the eggs without heat for more than 6 hours.  After candling the eggs it was only clear that the ducks eggs were still alive.   Ducks swim in their shells and move around during candling. Day 21 came and went without any chicks hatching. Finally the first little hole appeared and we could hear the chicks chirp in their eggs. We sang to the eggs and they started rolling in response. At this stage it is very tempting to help the chicks hatch. However any interference is usually fatal. It took all of our restrained not to open the incubator. After 2 days of struggling they all made it safely. Welcome to the Blue Planet little guys!


Now it is time to observe chick behavior. Our chicks cry for us when they are left alone.  They seem to like music and are very curious.  Chicks are not supposed to eat or drink in their first 24 hours after hatching.  Apparently our little guys didn’t get that memo.  They started pecking on their feed right away.

Presumably half of our chicks will be roosters.  If you or anybody you know is looking for a hand raised rooster, we might have two for you to choose from. Stay tuned for updates!



Monarch Butterfly Earth Day Challenge 2016


The class of 2027 has been working hard to become a Monarch Butterfly Waystation. For Earth Day we are now asking every school in America to do the same !

The National Center for Education Statistics reported that in 2009-2010 there were 98,817 school in the United States. If every school becomes a Waystation, the Monarchs will have enough food for their migration North.

Monarch Watch offers all the resources you will need.  It is relatively easy to get potted milkweed at your local garden supply store. Our school grew milkweed from seed and you can read all about it right here. Monarch Watch will certify you to be an official Waystation with only 6 plants!

This caterpillar is about to make a chrysalis in our habitat.

If you plant it they will come.  Monarchs can smell milkweed from up to 3 miles away.  You will soon be able to observe the monarch life cycle in you own yard. Our class also keeps a plant in the classroom and the kids got to see all developmental stages up close.  There is nothing like holding a monarch.  They are surprisingly easy to handle and will happily rest on a child’s hand. You can even mark them with a tag before setting them free. Tagging kits can be purchased right here.

Monarch Butterfly
A monarch emerges in our classroom. He will rest and pump his wings for several hours before he is ready to be released.

Your class can also help collect data for the United States Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service. Every monarch sighting will help provide important information.  Gathering data is an important component of the scientific method.

What are you waiting for? Join the our school and become a Waystation! The monarchs thank you for your hospitality.

Saving the Monarchs

Unless someone like you, cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it’s not!

~The Lorax


Did you know that many years ago the migration of the monarch butterfly went right through our own schoolyard? In the beginning of summer the beautiful butterflies would swoop over the top of Mount Washington Elementary School and then make their way over the Sierras on their journey North.

Room 6 has been very busy wondering what happened.  Where are they? Are they using a different route?  Are they still migrating?  What has changed? A lot of big questions for first graders.

What a great subject to explore! Project based learning is a dynamic learning approach that  connects different subject areas with real-life applications.  Bringing the monarch butterfly back in the process?  All the better.

The kids have conducted research and come up with an hypothesis. There is no milkweed on our yard.  Monarch butterflies lay their eggs on milkweed and drink the nectar from milkweed flowers.


There is nothing  first graders can’t do when they put their minds to it.  While the class was closing their eyes, visualizing the return of the monarch, incredibly, a real life monarch came fluttering by.  Coincidence?  The class didn’t think so.

Milkweed plants cost money and the children needed to find a way to raise funds fast.  An opportunity presented itself during the annual Wolf Pack Run fundraiser. The class decided to create a lemonade stand.  Considering the customers at the event it morphed into a coffee and lemonade stand.  The children also decided on quiche, eggs, fruit, and other baked goods.  Out came the cash register and room 6 made brisk business.

$ 304.65 later it was time to plant. The garden committee and the kids planted a butterfly garden right in front of the school.  First the kids had to weed the area and clean up. Digging holes turned out to be much harder than anticipated, but with the help of our Mount Washington garden committee the job got done. The kids even created and placed “Butterfly Crossing Signs” throughout the freshly planted yard.


With the milkweed in place it is now time to wait and see.  Will the monarch return? Will the hypothesis turn out correct?  As we conduct research and collect data, room 6 is getting ready for another round in the scientific process.  Stay tuned for updates!