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Carving Out a Lesson Plan

Pumpkin carving has gone high-tech. The classic has turned competitive. From This Old House contests, to the geek chic of, high-end cooking catalogs and TV cooking networks, ideas, templates, and tips for making the best of the Jack O' Lantern season is on the rise. Even the Wall Street Journal profiled an expert who gives pumpkin carving classes via Skype.

How to choose and prepare a pumpkin for carving, create the design, select the tools for different effects, and how to preserve the masterpiece are all subjects ripe for picking - from the internet or your local library. From the simplest, and surprisingly effective, geometric designs to the most intricate portraits and sculptures, there is literally something for every taste, talent, and time constraint.

In the spirit of playful learning, why not use pumpkin carving as a springboard for an educational celebration? The pumpkin patch, carving sessions, and the finished products can all jumpstart conversations about the history, costumes, engineering, biology, agriculture, folk tales and literature.

Take time to carve out teachable moments. Why is it important to support local farmers? How do pumpkin recipes differ from country to country? How can we save the seeds and grow our own pumpkin for next year? Is it better engineering to carve the small sections first? And for a big hit, trace the digestive path of the Halloween candy in The Quest to Digest (Ages: 8 - 11 yrs, Mary Corcoran, $16.95) or Dr. Frankenstein's Human Body Book (ages 8-13, Richard Walker, $24.99).

And don't forget that being frightened is a Halloween rite-of-passage. Reading scary stories is one sure way to get there. But listening to a ghost story - especially in the dark - is hard to top. The audio books and stories in the vast library deliver scary factors for all ages and temperaments: from Bill Harley's The Eeny Weeny Beeny Ghost - the funniest scary story you'll ever hear - to Edgar Allen Poe's terrifying The Tell Tale Heart and just about everything in between.


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