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Hot Weather, Rain Mean Fewer Pumpkins



Arts & Humanities
--Language Arts



Social Studies
--Current Events


Grades 2-up

News Content

Hot weather and rain are taking a toll on this years pumpkin crop.

Anticipation Guide

Label a sheet of chart paper Pumpkin Facts. (The chart might be orange and pumpkin-shaped.) Ask students to share information they know about pumpkins. Write down information that students share.

News Words

Next, introduce these words that appear in the News Word Box on the students printable page: harvest, normal, drought, decoration, percent, and ripen. Discuss the meanings of any of those words that might be unfamiliar. Then ask students to use one of those words to complete each of these sentences:

  • In the election, 52 _____ of people voted in favor of the new cell-phone law. (percent)
  • My aunt placed the green tomatoes on the windowsill so they would _____. (ripen)
  • Due to the _____, city officials have asked citizens not to water their lawns. (drought)
  • Each June, we _____ a crop of fresh strawberries. (harvest)
  • Students are needed to be part of the _____ committee for the spring dance. (decoration)
  • For a boy his age, Juan is much taller than _____. (normal)

    Read the News

    Click for a printable version of this weeks news story Hot Weather, Rain Mean Fewer Pumpkins.

    More Facts to Share

    You might share these additional facts with students after they have read this weeks news story.

  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates pumpkins to be a $100 million-a-year industry. This year, however, production is predicted to be down for the second year in a row.
  • Scorching weather and a lack of rain this summer wiped out some pumpkin crops from western New York to southern Illinois. What pumpkins there are in those locales hard hit by drought will likely be smaller and lighter because of the lack of water. Farmers whose fields have irrigation systems were not hurt like those who depend on Mother Nature.
  • In West Virginia, this years pumpkin crop was so bad that the annual Pumpkin Festival in Milton was forced to import pumpkins for the four-day event.
  • Other parts of the country -- where there was adequate rainfall -- are reporting bumper crops of pumpkins. Parts of Indiana and Wisconsin are among those reporting a good harvest.
  • In Michigan, farmers expect this years pumpkin crop to be half the size of last years. Heavy rains in southern Michigan fields caused much of the crop there to rot. Hot weather and drought in northern parts of the state have caused a smaller crop there too.
  • Pumpkins are grown in virtually every U.S. state. California is the largest supplier of fresh pumpkins. Illinois is the largest producer of pumpkins used for pie filling. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (2000), the other top producing states are New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Ohio.
  • Pumpkins are native to the Americas and are members of the gourd family, which includes watermelon, cucumbers, and zucchini squash.
  • Pumpkins arent the only crops to be affected by weather this year. Dry, hot weather has affected corn crops in many parts of the country, but consumers havent really noticed because, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, farmers planted 17 percent more corn this year to meet demand for the corn-based fuel ethanol.
  • Extended periods of rain this summer impacted crops in areas around Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Local growers say their tomato, green bean, pepper, and squash crops were hardest hit. But the wet weather seemed to help the pumpkin crop. As long as they weren't submerged, pumpkins in the area will be abnormally large because the periods of rain were followed by lots of sunlight.

    Comprehension Check

    Revisit the list of Pumpkin Facts that students created in the Anticipation section of this lesson. Here are some more interesting pumpkin facts from the University of Illinois Extension. Did students know any of these facts?

  • Pumpkins are a healthful source of potassium and Vitamin A.
  • Pumpkins originated in Central America.
  • In early colonial times, pumpkins were used as an ingredient for the crust of pies, not the filling.
  • The pumpkin is a fruit, not a vegetable.
  • In colonial times, Native Americans roasted long strips of pumpkin in an open fire.
  • Colonists sliced off pumpkin tops; removed seeds and filled the insides with milk, spices and honey. This was baked in hot ashes and is the origin of pumpkin pie.
  • The largest pumpkin pie ever made was more than 5 feet in diameter and weighed more than 350 pounds. It used 80 pounds of cooked pumpkin, 36 pounds of sugar, and 12 dozen eggs. It took six hours to bake the pie.
  • Native Americans flattened strips of pumpkins and dried them to make mats.
  • Native Americans used pumpkin seeds for food and medicine.
  • Pumpkin flowers are edible.
  • The word pumpkin originates from the word pepon, which is the Greek word for "large melon."
  • According to one source, pumpkin production reached its peak in 2005. That year, U.S. growers harvested 862,000 tons of pumpkins. Thats 1 billion, 724 thousand pounds of pumpkins!

    You might follow-up that activity by asking some of these questions about the article that students read:

    Recalling Detail

  • What might happen to pumpkins if the weather is too rainy? (they might rot)
  • Does hot, hot weather produce more or fewer pumpkins than normal summer weather? (In hot, hot weather, vines dont produce as many pumpkins.)
  • Will pumpkins grown under hot, hot conditions be larger or smaller than normal? (Since there is less rain, there will be less water in the pumpkins; they will be smaller than normal.)
  • Why is this years apple crop in Illinois smaller than normal? (A springtime freeze affected the crop.)
  • Which has more water in it -- a pumpkin or a watermelon? (A watermelon has about twice the amount of water [92 percent] as a pumpkin [45 percent].)

    Think About the News
    Discuss the Think About the News question that appears on the students news page. You might share that a poor harvest generally means that prices will be higher than normal in many parts of the country. One expert says pumpkins will likely go for 35 cents and 39 cents a pound this year, compared 29 cents a pound last year. (How much do they cost in your area?) The higher price this year makes sense if you subscribe to the supply and demand theory of economics. If there is high demand for a product and there are few available, the price will go higher. You might ask students to identify other products that are costly because there are few of them and high demand. Students might suggest i-Phones and high-definition TVs as examples of products whose prices were very high when demand was high and supply was small.

    Follow-Up Activities

    Math -- read a chart. Copy the table below onto a sheet of chart paper. Ask students to use the chart to answer the questions below it.

    U.S. Pumpkin Production

    Year Pumpkins (in tons)
    1996 696,000 tons
    1997 711,000
    1998 726,000
    1999 737,000
    2000 806,000
    2001 722,000
    2002 785,000
    2003 718,000
    2004 815,000
    2005 862,000

    Source: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (via

  • In which year on the chart was pumpkin production highest? (2005)
  • By how much did production increase between 2004 and 2005? (47,000 tons)
  • Before 2004, which year had the largest pumpkin crop? (2000)
  • In the ten years on the chart, which year had the smallest pumpkin yield? (1996)
  • Were more pumpkins produced in 2002 or 2003? (2002)
  • By how many tons did pumpkin production grow in the ten years between 1996 and 2005? (166,000 tons)

    Geography -- maps and a color key. Share with students this U.S. Drought Monitor Map. Ask students to identify states in which Severe, Extreme, or Exceptional drought conditions exist.

  • Instead of doing this as a whole-class activity, you might arrange students into groups. Provide a color copy of the map and an atlas and challenge the groups to list all of the states that include areas of Severe, Extreme, or Exceptional drought. Which group is able to put together the most accurate list?
  • You might also share this map that shows a 12-week animation of drought conditions.

    More activities. For additional pumpkin-themed activities, be sure to see the Education World lesson-planning article, Pick a Pumpkin Activity.


    Use the Comprehension Check (above) as an assessment. Or have students work on their own (in their journals) or in their small groups to respond to the Think About the News question on the news story page or in the Comprehension Check section.

    Lesson Plan Source

    Education World

    National Standards

    LANGUAGE ARTS: English
    GRADES K - 12
    NL-ENG.K-12.2 Reading for Understanding
    NL-ENG.K-12.12 Applying Language Skills

    MATHEMATICS: Number and Operations
    GRADES Pre-K - 2
    NM-NUM.PK-2.3 Compute Fluently and Make Reasonable Estimates
    GRADES 3 - 5
    NM-NUM.3-5.3 Compute Fluently and Make Reasonable Estimates
    GRADES 6 - 8
    NM-NUM.6-8.3 Compute Fluently and Make Reasonable Estimates
    GRADES 9 - 12
    NM-NUM.9-12.3 Compute Fluently and Make Reasonable Estimates

    MATHEMATICS: Data Analysis and Probability
    GRADES 3 - 5
    NM-DATA.3-5.2 Select and Use Appropriate Statistical Methods to Analyze Data
    NM-DATA.3-5.3 Develop and Evaluate Inferences and Predictions That Are Based on Data
    NM-DATA.3-5.4 Understand and Apply Basic Concepts of Probability
    GRADES 6 - 8
    NM-DATA.6-8.2 Select and Use Appropriate Statistical Methods to Analyze Data
    NM-DATA.6-8.3 Develop and Evaluate Inferences and Predictions That Are Based on Data
    NM-DATA.6-8.4 Understand and Apply Basic Concepts of Probability
    GRADES 9 - 12
    NM-DATA.9-12.2 Select and Use Appropriate Statistical Methods to Analyze Data
    NM-DATA.9-12.3 Develop and Evaluate Inferences and Predictions That Are Based on Data

    GRADES K - 4
    NS.K-4.3 Life Science
    GRADES 5 - 8
    NS.5-8.3 Life Science
    GRADES 9 - 12
    NS.9-12.3 Life Science

    SOCIAL SCIENCES: Economics
    GRADES K - 4
    NSS-EC.K-4.7 Markets and Market Prices
    NSS-EC.K-4.8 Supply and Demand
    GRADES 5 - 8
    NSS-EC.5-8.7 Markets and Market Prices
    NSS-EC.5-8.8 Supply and Demand
    GRADES 9 - 12
    NSS-EC.9-12.7 Markets and Market Prices
    NSS-EC.9-12.8 Supply and Demand

    SOCIAL SCIENCES: Geography
    GRADES K - 12
    NSS-G.K-12.1 The World in Spatial Terms
    NSS-G.K-12.5 Environment and Society

    See recent news stories in Education Worlds News Story of the Week Archive.

    Article by Ellen Delisio
    Education World®
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