July 22

The Pumpkin Plants Are Flowering

Here’s a quick update on the pumpkin patch at our school.  I checked the plants out yesterday and noticed a few things.  First, The plants have all grown.  Also, they seem to be more green.  Some of the leaves in the past weeks have been yellow.  I think they might have been watered too much.  I altered this a bit for both gardens.  Hopefully, that helped.  I still see some yellow discoloration in the leaf of some of the plants, but not much.  I have not seen as many leaves being eaten.  I put some slug bait down last week and that seemed to keep the slimy guys off for now.  Here’s a photo of one such creature I caught in our garden.


This is a banana slug. It’s a native species for our state.









A new pest arrived this week and has been munching little holes in the leaves of the plants. Here’s a photo of a beetle I found on one of the leaves.  I’m not sure if it’s the culprit. Again, I’ll keep an eye on it.

IMG_3783 IMG_3784









I found that the growth is still better in Garden 1 compared to Garden 2.  If you look carefully in the Garden 1 photo you can see some yellow coloring.  Those are the flowers that are starting to bloom.  Remember that the pumpkin fruit start as a flower.  Once it gets pollinated it will start to make the pumpkin fruit.  Do you recall how they get pollinated?  See the photos below.


Garden 1


Garden 2








Lastly, I observes some interesting color on the leaves of one of the pumpkins in the 5 gallon buckets.  I’m not sure what it is exactly.  It might be nothing, or it could be the start of some sort of disease.  I’ll check back on it next week.

The courtyard to the school is generally closed during the month of July, but it might start opening up in August.  Stop by and check if you have time to see how the plants are progressing in person.

July 22

What are you doing this summer?

What have you been up to?  Have you had a chance to hang out with friends?  Maybe you’ve gone to a Summer Camp and made new friends.  Do you play a sport?  Perhaps you’ve stayed home and hung around the house with family.  Did you go camping?  My kids are currently hanging out with their grandparents in Portland.  I think they’re getting spoiled.

Playing Cards and Eating Ice Cream

My son and daughter playing cards and eating ice cream with their grandfather.











Usually summer is a time to take a trip somewhere new.  It can be to meet up with family, or see a new place.  You start to explore new boundaries.  Recently, I was looking at taking a trip to one of our Nation’s great National Parks and came across this website.  Jonathan Irish is a National Geographic photographer that wanted to see all of the parks in one year.  In fact, he is trying to see them all in 52 weeks, or a year.  He’s taking this trip with his wife, Stefanie.  She’s in the exploration business too.  She works for Nasa.

Wait a minute.  I’ll bet you have some questions.

If you haven’t been, you might be thinking, “What’s a National Park? How does a place in the US become a National Park? How many National Parks are there?”

The video series “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea” created by Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan can answer all of these questions and more.  Check out the PBS site for more information and catch a glimpse of history.

Now that you’ve started to create an idea of what a National Park is, which would you visit?  It’s definitely something to think about.  There are several great choices.  I can remember the first time I went to Yellowstone National Park with my kids.  They had their heads down and they were playing on some electronic devices they had.  Once we got closer to the park I said, “Put your gizmos away and pay attention to what’s happening around you outside.”  They were perplexed and didn’t really get it.  However, once they looked outside, their thoughts of video games and fail videos vanished.  There, in front of them, was a landscape they had never seen before.  It was huge and majestic.  As we drove further into the park,  we came across a 2000 plus pound Bison just walking in the road.  The kids couldn’t believe it.  That was the start of a great adventure for my family.

Ella and Riley look for wolves in Yellowstone.

Ella and Riley look for wolves in Yellowstone.











Maybe you can’t make it to a park this summer.  If you could, which would you visit?  How long would you stay?  What attractions would you be sure not to miss?

I’m going to Glacier National Park this summer.  I’m not sure what we’ll do or see.  We leave in 3 weeks.  I need to start answering the questions above.  Hopefully, I can do a follow-up post and let you know how our trip goes.  Stay tuned.


July 8

Why are the pumpkin leaves changing colors?

This week I went up to Challenger Elementary to check out our pumpkins.  I found some interesting changes.  First, the irrigation seemed to be working pretty well.  The strawberries looked great.  There was even a couple of ripe berries, which my son, Riley, immediately grabbed and gobbled up.  Not fair.  When I tested the irrigation there were 4 fountains of water spraying up from the strawberries.  The sprinkler heads had blown off from all of the water pressure.  I was able to find them and screw them on a little tighter.  Hopefully, that will fix the problem.  Next, I noticed quite a few weeds popping up.  Luckily I brought Ella and Riley.  We all pitched in and began working on clearing the weeds to give the pumpkins more room to grow.  Pretty soon everything was cleared.  The last thing we did was an examination of the pumpkins in our two gardens.  Ella took some photos for me.

Kandy Korn Pumpkin Plant 1

Kandy Korn Pumpkin Plant 1








Kandy Korn Pumpkin Plant 2

Kandy Korn Pumpkin Plant 2








Some of the plants seemed to be discolored.  The leaves were changing color.  They were turning yellow.  I don’t think this is a normal growth pattern.  I guess it’s time to start thinking like a scientist.  What do you think it means?

Pumpkin Plant Pest

Pumpkin Plant Pest








I found a few plants were eaten a little and a lot.  The plant above was pretty devastated.  It looked like it had been munched on by something.  Before school ended the class was worried about a local bunny eating them, but I think that’s very unlikely.  If a rabbit was eating them they’d be gone.  A rabbit would completely destroy a young plant.  This is something different.  What kind of pest could be feasting on the pumpkins?

Most of our pumpkins did look pretty healthy, but I did continue to notice a difference between the 2 gardens and the variety of pumpkins.  Here’s the data we ended with in June.  It demonstrated a big difference in germination rates.

Germination Data for Garden 1

Germination Data for Garden 1









Germination Data for Garden 2

Germination Data for Garden 2








If you look closely at the run charts you can see that Garden 1 seeds germinated much quicker than Garden 2.  Why was that?  Well students hypothesize that it was due to the amount of sunlight.  Garden 1 received much more during the day than Garden 2.  We don’t know for sure if this is the main factor effecting growth, but it’s a pretty reasonable prediction.  Below you can see a visible difference in the size of the plants in Garden 1 versus Garden 2.

Garden 1 on July 6th

Garden 1 on July 6th








Garden 2 on July 6th

Garden 2 on July 6th








Also, I noticed that the Snowball pumpkin plants seemed larger than the Kandy Korn.  Why is this?  You can see this in the Garden 1 picture.  The Snowball pumpkins are in the 2nd and 4th rows.  Also, you’ll notice it in the Garden 2 photo.  The Snowball plants are in rows 1 and 3 (counting from right to left).  They’re more developed.

Stay tuned for more garden news.  Send a comment if you think you have ideas or feedback worth sharing.

June 30

Sprouts and Vines

Well the irrigation has been installed and is hopefully keeping the pumpkins well hydrated. I guess the technical term is irrigated. We now have many plants coming up and adding more leaves to their stems. There was a distinct difference between the 2 gardens with germination.  Garden 1 had 29 of 32 seeds germinate, while Garden 2 had 21 of 33 seeds germinate.  Many students predicted that the sunlight was the key factor in germination rate.  What other factors could have played a role?

We may need to thin some soon. The teachers are checking in once in a while to make sure everything is growing well during the summer months.

Waiting for germination.

Waiting for germination.


The first plant to germinate.

5th graders finished up the year well.  We worked hard to create a legacy crop that will be growing at the beginning of your 6th grade year.  Be sure to stop by to see how your hard work is paying off. Hopefully we have enough fruit to harvest for our 1st graders.

June 3

Planning for the Garden

Kids have been actively working on the garden at Challenger Elementary.  We know a few things about plants, and pumpkins in particular.  They are organisms and have some specific needs.  I asked kids,

“What are the things that pumpkins need to live and grow, or germinate?”

Pumpkin Seed Germination

Adapted from curriculum visions.








Here’s what they said.





One factor we can control is water.  As a result, students decided to begin working on answering the following question:

“How will the plants get water?”

Some students thought we could water them with gardening canisters that hold water.  Others thought we should use a hose and spray the water on the garden.  A few students said that we could use a sprinkler.  All of these methods could work just fine.  However, I suggested we could use drip irrigation because we wouldn’t be here to monitor is over the summer.  Drip irrigation could be setup with a timer so that the water would come on automatically.  In the end, we began planning for irrigation and kids picked the design that seemed to fit our needs best.


Sandra, Yareli, Jason and Tim work through the irrigation packet.


The Orange Group begins designing the irrigation layout for Garden 1.

Once kids finished their designs, they determined the materials list they needed and came up with a total cost.  This took some time.  Many students in our class were unsure how many inches were in a foot.  This was important because we had to know how much tubing to order.  It was measured by the foot.


Sofia, Jade and Navi figure the total cost for their plan.

Meanwhile, we planted the pumpkins to get our crop started.  Hopefully the irrigation plan will come together soon.

May 23

Survey says!!!

We have finally picked a winner for the Legacy Crop. 5th graders have chosen to plant Kandy Korn and Snowball pumpkins. We used a “Hot Dot” method to choose our crops. It was too close to call. We’ve decided to throw in a larger variety as well for fun. These will be placed away from the classroom beds.


Currently, kids are planning out irrigation for our garden beds. This has given the kids great opportunities to learn logical reasoning, computation with decimals and measurement.

Next steps, planting those pumpkins.

May 23

How do we combine our real-world work with something we love to do?

Recently, I came across a nice video that showcases a young man that is working hard to become an artist.  More specifically, he wants to create and document with videos.  He’s a bit unsure about how to do this, or where his journey will take him.  He comes up with an idea about how he might use skills he’s already mastered and incorporate them with the artistic skills he’s trying to learn.  Watch the video…

What skills did he have mastered? How have they helped him to achieve more?

I showed this video because I think it’s important to work on things that we’re truly passionate about. This adds value to what we do. It keeps us motivated. By focusing on the things we love and are good at, we can learn even more. I’ll bet for Kevin, it even makes going to work that much better. Think of something you’re not finding value with. How can you make it more meaningful?

April 26

Garden Project: Step 3-Research

Okay.  We’ve decided to plant pumpkins.  We’ve followed some simple steps to get started.  Now it’s time to decide which type of pumpkins to plant.  Remember a few simple things…

  1. We want to plant something that is relatively small (5-10 pounds).  A vine will only be able to support so much fruit.  If we choose a larger variety, it may not produce as many pumpkins.  This doesn’t quite fit our goal.  We want to have enough pumpkins to harvest so that our primary classrooms can each have at least 1 to enjoy with their students.
  2. We want to try and select a plant that generates a high yield.  The yield refers to the number of pumpkins we can produce.
  3. We have a limited amount of growing space for pumpkins.  We need to consider the room each plant will require to get the optimum number of pumpkins in the space we are given.  So, the smaller the plant, the more plants we can grow.  This can be hard to picture.  You want to look for plants that can be planted at least 3-4 per hill.

Use the territorial seeds website to help you to decide which type of pumpkins we should plant.  Also, use the form your teacher provides to help guide your research.


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April 19

Garden Project: Step 1-Where does food come from?

If I ask where food comes from, they will probably say, “The grocery store.”  Sure, we often go to the grocery store to buy food that we later prepare and eat.  In fact, there are lots of stores we can go to buy food.  A few students will even say, “McDonalds!” or a restaurant.  But I wonder if any students will really ponder where it came from before finding its place on a store shelf, or a restaurant kitchen.  Recently, we’ve been learning more about nutrition, but not as much about our food resources.  Where do they come from? Here’s a link to a quick game you can play to begin to think about how complicated it can be.  Click on the Elementary Farm-to-Table Challenge.  Here’s another video link to help you actually see the Farm-to-Table Journey.  Click on the virtual field trip.


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