Purpose in the Pumpkin Patch

Khan Lab School
March 16, 2023 / 5 mins read


For students in Hannah’s kindergarten class, learning about social emotional learning has never been easier. Hannah and teaching assistant Jayme created the metaphor of a pumpkin growing in order to help decode social emotional learning. Imagine a pumpkin seed from the beginning all the way to when it develops into a full pumpkin; what would the pumpkin need in order to best grow? Can it do it on its own, or does it need extra support? If so, what does that look like?


First, the pumpkin seed feels…”,

Beginning with this prompt, students were asked to think about how a pumpkin seed might feel when planted in the ground. Would it be lonely, or excited? One student wrote that it “feels sad and unsure. They need help”. This activity helps our students recognize their different emotions and to feel empathy towards others. Once they can recognize how they feel, they will be able to recognize emotions among their peers, allowing them to better understand and connect with each other.


“Next, the pumpkin seeds feels…Their teammates are…”

Once a learner is able to recognize those first initial feelings, they are able to then picture what a pumpkin seed would need in order to grow, helping them discover what teamwork is. Hannah taught the students that seeds need water, sunlight, and food in order to develop, describing it in a way that they can recognize that if everyone works together, they can get things done and a pumpkin can start to grow.


“Then the pumpkin seed…”

Agency is an integral part of developing your social emotional skills. One of the teachings within our SEL guidebook is that independence and self-advocacy mean that “I can do it on my own”. A student with the confidence to be their own agent is a student that will continue to develop into someone who is self-assured and aware of their own skills.


“Finally, the pumpkin…grows big and strong and finds its purpose”

The teacher was translating ‘purpose’ as the pumpkin’s goal in life—it’s the right thing to do for me! For example, some pumpkins want to be a pie, while others want to be a jack-o-lantern, and others might just want to be a pumpkin that goes and makes pumpkins seeds for more pumpkins. All of these ‘purposes’ are perfect because they are a personal pumpkin purpose. No two pumpkins are the same, even if their purpose is the same. What differs is who the pumpkin is.

Overall, by teaching our students the importance of understanding and managing their emotions, we are helping them to grow their own social and emotional intelligence and become emotional scientists.

To learn more about the importance of social emotional learning, click here.