The Joy of Squash - by Jenn Mampara
This year our winter squash lessons were extra special because of a wonderful new book! Sophie’s Squash was introduced to us by the librarian at one of our schools, and is one of the funniest, sweetest, most touching and educational stories for children about food and plant life cycles that I have ever come across. Sophie falls in love with a butternut squash her parents buy at the farmers market. She names it Bernice, and discovers that Bernice feels just right for cuddling like a baby in her arms. Much to Sophie’s dismay, over time, Bernice begins to get soft and slowly rot. Eventually Sophie accepts that she can’t keep Bernice with her forever and she decides to bury Bernice in the backyard. While missing her desperately during the snowy winter, she is rewarded in the spring when the seeds inside Bernice germinate and eventually produce new “babies” for Sophie to love.
This year we have shared Sophie’s Squash with students from 3 years old through 3rd grade, and all have been captivated. At the end of the book, all you want to is to cuddle a butternut squash. Christy, our early childhood FoodPrints teacher at Peabody knew exactly what to do. She brought in baby blankets, and quickly sewed some stuffed butternut squash “babies.” While some of her students worked on chopping squash to cook, others practiced counting and sorting squash seeds, and the rest worked on wrapping the butternut “babies” - both real and stuffed —in the blankets. Dramatic play with squash babies was the most popular center that day in FoodPrints. Her preschool, pre-K and kindergarten students (especially the boys) had an incredibly hard time leaving their squash babies behind to move on to another center.
In addition to cooking, winter squash experiences at our other schools this year have included:
- counting, sorting, toasting and eating seeds
- slicing open a variety of squash to study the insides
- drawing the inside and outside of different squash
- using tactile materials to create individual “Bernice” art projects
- and lots and lots of cooking.
By Jenn Mampara