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Children in Nature: October Pumpkin Fun!

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October 2014 | The pumpkin goes hand in hand with the fall season. We see it everywhere, from decorations to our favorite recipes. But it didn't start out that way. 

The practice of carving pumpkins actually originated hundreds of years ago in Ireland, but back then they were made out of turnips or potatoes. It wasn't until immigrants discovered pumpkins when they arrived in America that the tradition as we know it was born.
And pumpkin pie at the first Thanksgiving? No way, says Smithsonian researchers. The colonists didn't have butter or wheat flour to make crusts for pies. They most likely made up for the lack of pastries at the table with more meat from wild game, which was plentiful in the area. Even if pumpkins weren't there from the beginning, they are still the fall fruit of choice. 

Events for pumpkin-lovers
Celebrate the season with us at one (or more) of our fall holiday events. Learn more about these and other events online.
• FestiFALL and Candlelight Walk, Newton Hills State Park, 10/4
• Spirits of the Forest Hike, Good Earth State Park at Blood Run, 10/10 and 10/11
• Haunted Fort Tour, Fort Sisseton Historic State Park, 10/18
• Spooktacular Trick or Treat Trails, Big Sioux Recreation Area, 10/25
• Trick or Treat Trails, LaFramboise Island Nature Area, 10/26
• Forest Drive Fright Night, Richmond Lake Recreation Area, 11/1

Pumpkin Facts
Where in the world do pumpkins originate? 
Pumpkins first started growing in Central America.

How many pounds of pumpkins do farmers grow in the United States each year?
1.5 billion pounds.

Is pumpkin a vegetable, fruit or does it belong in another food group?
It's a fruit! Pumpkins belong to the Cucurbitacae family, just like melons and cucumbers.

Pumpkins are a fruit in part because they have seeds, but just how many seeds are in each pumpkin? 
Each pumpkin has approximately 500 seeds.

What does the word "pumpkin" mean?
The name "pumpkin" stems from the Greek word "pepon," which translates to large melon.

What are the top four pumpkin growing states?
Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania and California. Illinois produces most of the processed pumpkins in the United States.

How much did the world's largest pumpkin weigh?
Ron Wallace grew a 2,009-pound pumpkin in Rhode Island in 2012.

What town is the Pumpkin Capital of America?
Morton, Illinois, home the Libby pumpkin plant, proclaimed itself the pumpkin capital. The town's designation comes from being the home to Nestle Food Company's pumpkin processing plant where over 85% of the world's pumpkin is canned each fall.
Info from chicagonow.com

Give these fun pumpkin activities a try!

Pumpkin Painting

You'll need:
• Long piece of banner paper
• Washable paint
• Paper plates (or another suitable container to hold the paint)
• Small pie pumpkin
• Other bits of nature (acorns, pine cones, pine needles, etc.)
• Clean up supplies (hose, buckets of water, or mop depending on where you do this activity)
Make it:
Tape the long piece of paper onto a concrete driveway. Pour red, yellow, orange, and brown paint into four different paper plates. Collect other bits of nature to try and paint with – pumpkins, pine cones, acorns, a small cluster of pine needles, etc.
Dip and roll the pumpkin in a paint-filled plate, then roll the pumpkin down the length of the paper. You can also roll acorns and pine cones. Try using pine needs as paint brushes. Let your imagination guide you!
Idea from Childhood Beckons

Pumpkin Bird Feeder

You'll need:
• A pumpkin
• Twine
• Bird seed
• Pumpkin carving tools
Make it:
• Cut the pumpkin in half and scrape out all of the seeds.
• Fill it with bird seed.
• You can leave it sitting on a table or hang it in a tree.
• To hang in a tree, tie two strands of braided twine around the tree and then add half of a pumpkin.
• It really is a fun simple project to do with kids.
Idea from DreamyWhites

Silly Pumpkin Putty Recipe

Combine in small bowl:
• 3/4 teaspoons of borax
• 1 1/3 cups very warm water
In a second bowl, combine:
• 2 cups of white school glue
• 1 1/2 cups very warm water
• a few drops of orange food coloring
• Pumpkin pie spice - added until you have reached the desired scent
Once the ingredients of each bowl are well mixed, combine both bowls.
Once the ingredients are well enough mixed you will want to remove the slime substance from the bowl and finish working it by hand.
You will have residual watery ingredients left in the bowl. That is normal. They are not needed and you can disgard them.
Continue to work the ingredients with your hands until you have an amazing and SILLY pumpkin putty.
Idea from Growing a Jeweled Rose

Pumpkin Peanut Butter Dip

You'll need:
• ¾ cup pumpkin puree
• ¾ cup peanut butter
• 2 teaspoons honey
• ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
• ½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice mix
• 3-4 apples, sliced
Make it:
Place pureed pumpkin, peanut butter, honey, vanilla and spice mix in food processor and process until blended. Serve with sliced apples.
Idea from Jeanette’s Healthy Living

Colored and Scented Pumpkin Seeds

You'll need:
• Pumpkin seeds
• Zip seal bags
• Food coloring or liquid watercolors
• Scent - try these different scents and colors of seeds. Seasonings can be found in the spice aisle of most stores.
o Pumpkin pie spice to make orange scented seeds
o Apple pie spice to make green apple scented seeds
o Clove to make yellow clove scented seeds
o Cranberry extract to make red cranberry seeds
o Coffee extract to make brown coffee scented seeds
Make it:
In a zip seal bag place the desired amount of seeds for each color and scent you wish to make. Then add a few drops of food coloring or liquid watercolors, scent, and a touch of water. Seal the bags and let kids help you mix and shake the bags until the seeds are well covered
You can then open the bags and leave the seeds right in the bag to dry. Once dry you can use these seeds in all sorts of ways:
• Add the seeds in a bin along with tongs, scoopers, and diggers for some fabulous fall sensory play
• Use the seeds to practice patterning, counting, and sorting
• Use them for arts and crafts
• Glue twigs to paper and use the seeds to make the colorful fall leaves on the tree
These seeds smell amazing and capture all the beautiful colors and alluring aromas of fall! They are easy to make, too!
Idea from Growing a Jeweled Rose

This month's activities brought to you by: Brooke Smith, Pierre central office