By Cindy O'Connell
What better way to celebrate the start of summer than with watermelon-themed activities!
There are countless creative ways to make use of a watermelon for educational purposes:
- Explore them for attributes (Vocabulary & Concept Development)). Weigh and measure them (Measurement). Compare them for size, color, weight and taste.
- Use the seeds as math manipulatives (Number Concepts)
- Plant watermelon seeds and observe the life cycle of a watermelon (Life Science)
- Visit a local farm to explore an established watermelon patch (Community Experience)
- Read watermelon-themed books (Reading and Literature)
- Add watermelon-related words to your monthly vocabulary list (e.g., plant, seed, sprout, seedling, vine, blossom, pollinate)
- Create watermelon stories (Composition). See if watermelons float (Predictions)
- Use the inside for cooking activities (following directions). Use watermelons for games and relay races (social skills)
- Use the rinds to make block prints (hand skills)...
To start off your watermelon unit, begin by having your students use their senses to explore a watermelon (Biology: Living Things and Their Environment). Tap it, listen to the hollow sound it makes. Put dried watermelon seeds in a cup and listen to them rattle. For sighted students, identify color and patterns. Smell the outside, then smell the inside, compare the smells. Touch the watermelon. Compare the feel of the outside to the inside. See how it's smooth and hard on the outside, but somewhat rough and soft on the inside. Find the seeds (tactile/visual discrimination). Taste the melon.
As part of your watermelon-theme, use watermelons as concrete teaching tools for Mathematics (measurement, estimation, counting, fractions, grouping by sets). Start with whole watermelons. Compare the sizes. Use comparative terms (big, bigger, biggest). Carry one to demonstrate the concept of heavy. Weigh them. Measure the circumference. Cut them into halves and fourths to demonstrate fractions. Estimate how many seeds are in a watermelon. Cut one into slices, pass them out and count the seeds in each slice. Add the number of seeds up to see how many seeds were in the watermelon (computation). Use the left over seeds to make sets, to add and subtract, to count to 100. Package ten seeds to an envelope. Sell the seed packets for next years garden for a quarter (money concepts), include instructions to store them in a cool, dry place (wash the seeds first, with a few drops of liquid detergent to remove remaining sugar. Rinse well. Drain in a colander and let dry on newspapers).
Use seeds from watermelons to grow your own watermelon plants. Fill an egg carton with potting soil. Plant one or two watermelon seeds in each section. Water daily and wait for them to sprout. After they sprout, find a sunny spot to put them in a garden, or transplant to a big planting pot (the National Watermelon Promotion Board says it's actually OK to plant watermelons in a pot!). You can also plant the seeds directly into the soil, about one inch down. Water immediately after planting and several times a week after that. You should see plants emerge in about ten days. Watch as the seed grows into a tiny plant, vines grow, blossoms form, bees pollinate the blossoms and the watermelons start to appear. Keep weekly logs to sequence the life cycle.
Watermelon Cookies (from watermelon.org)
You will need:
- Seedless watermelon, cut into 1/2-inch thick rounds
- Cookie cutters
Cut interesting shapes out of the watermelon rounds with cookie cutters (push down/pull up). Use them to design simple shape puzzles (e.g., cat, house, truck), or create watermelon sculptures by stacking them. This is a fun way to work on spatial concepts (on top of, next to, under) and shape recognition. Frost the watermelon cookies with yogurt, sprinkle with Granola, or decorate with raisins (optional).
Watermelon Pops (from FamilyFun Magazine)
You will need:
- Several seedless watermelons, sliced into 1/2 inch thick rounds (at least one round for each student)
- Cookie cutters (deep enough to cut through half-inch of watermelon)
- Plastic wrap or foil
- Popsicle sticks
- Cookie sheets
- Access to a freezer
Use the cookie cutters to cut out various shapes. Insert popsicle sticks carefully into the edge of each shape. Line a cookie sheet with foil or plastic wrap. Place watermelon shapes on cookie sheet and cover with a sheet of foil or plastic wrap. Freeze for one hour or until frozen.