Students practice math skills with pumpkins

Tradition goes back 20 years
2010-10-28T00:30:00Z 2010-10-28T11:39:20Z Students practice math skills with pumpkinsBy JACKIE BORCHARDT - Star-Tribune staff writer Casper Star-Tribune Online

Sleeves rolled up, second-grader Isaak Barber shoved his hands into the recently hollowed-out 21-pound pumpkin.

He pulled out his hands, spilled four more seeds on the table and slumped down. Barber was well past his guess of 15 pumpkin seeds.

"There's still some seeds," Barber said.

His older brother Nick Retseck moved the pumpkin closer and dug his hands in, his longer arms able to reach the bottom.

"I got it, I got it," he said.

This wasn't Retseck's first "pumpkin day" at Sagewood Elementary School.

Retseck, now a senior at Kelly Walsh High School, attended second grade at Sagewood. Now, he was back at Sagewood to help his little brother and grandmother with the tough part of the project -- cutting open the pumpkin and cleaning out the insides.

For more than 20 years, Sagewood second-graders have completed math and science lessons with pumpkins and the help of a family member.

The school gym is filled with parents, grandparents, younger siblings and the smell of pumpkin pulp. Students measure the pumpkins' "bellies." They weigh the pumpkins. They estimate and then count seeds by tens -- they're learning place value.

All numbers are recorded on class charts that can be taken back to classrooms for analysis and discussion.

If time allows, students carve their pumpkins into jack-o'-lanterns.

"It's an easy way to get a jump start with pumpkin carving and learn math and science too," said Toni Billings, who teaches second grade at Sagewood. "It's a way to get parents up here at school."

Wednesday was Billings's 20th pumpkin day. The teachers may change, she said, but pumpkin day has stayed mostly the same.

Arlene Gallinger is a five-time pumpkin helper, finishing years of pumpkin day with her youngest daughter Kera. Teachers joked that she has more pumpkin days in the future -- with her grandchildren.

"I thought, 'Oh my gosh, I'll never get out of pumpkin day,'" Gallinger said. "But really, it's fun. The kids look forward to second grade because of pumpkin day."

They look back too.

Gallinger's oldest two sons still remember the event, and if they weren't working, Gallinger said, they would have been pumpkin helpers.

She still has their pumpkin day books and plans to find them later this week -- after she gets the pumpkin smell off her skin.

Reach education reporter Jackie Borchardt at (307) 266-0593 or at Read her education blog at and follow her on Twitter @JMBorchardt

Copyright 2015 Casper Star-Tribune Online. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

No Comments Posted.

Untitled Document

Civil Dialogue

We provide this community forum for readers to exchange ideas and opinions on the news of the day. Passionate views, pointed criticism and critical thinking are welcome. Name-calling, crude language and personal abuse are not welcome. Moderators will monitor comments with an eye toward maintaining a high level of civility in this forum. Our comment policy explains the rules of the road for registered commenters.

If your comment was not approved, perhaps...

  1. You called someone an idiot, a racist, a dope, a moron, etc. Please, no name-calling or profanity (or veiled profanity -- #$%^&*).

  2. You rambled, failed to stay on topic or exhibited troll-like behavior intended to hijack the discussion at hand.

  3. YOU SHOUTED YOUR COMMENT IN ALL CAPS. This is hard to read and annoys readers.

  4. You have issues with a business. Have a bad meal? Feel you were overcharged at the store? New car is a lemon? Contact the business directly with your customer service concerns.

  5. You believe the newspaper's coverage is unfair. It would be better to write the editor at, or call Editor Jason Adrians at 266-0545 or Content Director David Mayberry at 266-0633. This is a forum for community discussion, not for media criticism. We'd rather address your concerns directly.

  6. You included an e-mail address or phone number, pretended to be someone you aren't or offered a comment that makes no sense.

  7. You accused someone of a crime or assigned guilt or punishment to someone suspected of a crime.

  8. Your comment is in really poor taste.

Add Comment
You must Login to comment.

Click here to get an account it's free and quick

Activate subscription button gif

Featured Businesses

Latest Offers