Squishy, mushy, stringy goo. Those were the sensations little fingers discovered recently when they explored the insides of pumpkins.
Kids squealed with delight after sticking their hands inside the gourds to feel their gloppy guts and slippery seeds. For most of the 42 children at Eagle’s Nest Learning Center in Southeast Newport News, it was the first time they ever saw or touched the mysteries hidden beneath a pumpkin’s orange skin.
The pumpkin experience was delivered to the childcare center thanks to Newport News Public Library, along with support from Wood’s Orchard in Hampton and Lilley Farms in Chesapeake, and NNPL’s Early Literacy Outreach Coordinator Shawna LoMonaco.
LoMonaco got the idea to bring the crisp sights and smells of a pumpkin patch to the childcare center’s backyard after she read a book about pumpkin patches to the kids. Since most of the children, who are between the ages of 2 and 5, had never experienced going to a pumpkin patch or carving into a gourd, they had a hard time understanding what LoMonaco was reading.
“Providing a pumpkin patch experience for children allows them to comprehend the story and introduces new words. It also enhances their language skills and creates a direct connection to the text, as well as for future books and experiences,” said LoMonaco.
In order for kids to advance from learning to read to reading to learn, it’s critical for them to have these quality experiences at a young age to provide them that background knowledge, LoMonaco said.
The hands-on adventure also illustrated that learning is fun. Before they even studied the pumpkins’ brains, the kids raced around a grassy field at the center to pick out their own gourd from the NNPL Pop-up Pumpkin Patch that LoMonaco had set up.
After the mad dash, the youngsters—with their pumpkins in tow—settled in a classroom to learn all about the fall fruit.
“The pumpkin patch was absolutely needed for the kids in this area and was so special to them. We are very thankful for Newport News Public Library for making it possible. It let the kids experience feeling a pumpkin, seeing what’s inside of a pumpkin, and hearing the stories about how pumpkins grow,” said Pandora Carter, the director and owner of Eagle’s Nest Learning Center.
LaMonaco is a familiar face at the center because she frequently visits it for Storytimes and activities. In fact, many of the children refer to her as the “library lady.”
“The kids love her. When she came in for the pumpkin patch, the kids recognized her from Storytime, and they gave her a lot of hugs. It was awesome,” said Carter.
The children got to take a free book home along with their pumpkin.