Pumpkin carving

by Fellowship Agency October 16, 2017

Get creative this Halloween, design and carve your own spooky pumpkin with this brilliant #WhatsInMyTray activity. Pumpkin carving can be a messy business, keep everything contained in Gratnells’ biggest tray.

Learning outcomes

You will be able to:

  • Design and create your own Halloween pumpkin.
  • Outline the origins and history of Halloween and describe how this has led to our current traditions (in an age appropriate way).

You will need:

  • 1 x Gratnells Art (A1) tray
  • An assortment of pumpkins or squash in a range of shapes, sizes and colours
  • 1 x Pumpkin carving utensils including a knife and spoons
  • 1 x Template for your spooky design
  • 1 x Scissors
  • 1 x Glue stick
  • 1 x Battery powered tea light candle
  • Camera (optional)

What to do:

  • Search out some spooky pumpkin design templates online or, if you’re feeling creative, sketch your own design.
  • Cut out your design template and set aside for later.
  • Place your pumpkin into the Gratnells Art tray and cut a circle in the top around the stalk. Tip: Use an angled cut so the lid won’t fall through when you put it back on.
  • Remove the lid and scoop out the insides. These can be composted or kept for one of the activities suggested in the ‘other things to try’ section. The tray will contain all the mess.
  • Glue the template to the outside of the pumpkin as a cutting guide. Carefully cut around the shapes and into the skin of the pumpkin. This may be tricky and will require close adult supervision.
  • Once your pumpkin is fully carved, pop a battery powered light or candle inside and dim the main lights. Watch your creation come to life as the light flickers through the holes in the pumpkin.

What is happening?

The History and Origins of Halloween

Halloween is a festival celebrated in several countries across the world on the 31st of October. A shortened version of All Hallows Eve or All Hallows’ Evening, Halloween is thought to have originated from an ancient Celtic festival called Samhain (Summer’s end), which celebrated the end of the harvest season in Gaelic culture. During Samhain, pagans checked their food stores and prepared for winter. Celts from Britain and Ireland celebrated the start of their new year, All Souls Day or All Hallows’ Day, on the 1st of November. This date marked the end of summer and harvest time and the start of winter. It was believed that on the 31st October the world of the living and the dead overlapped before the start of the new year. The Celts believed that on All Hallows Eve, ghosts of the dead could return and destroy the harvest and food stores. To prevent this from happening, they lit bonfires on hill tops to ward off the evil spirits and protect their winter stores. For Christians, this was the start of a three-day observance of Allhallowtide, during which the dead, saints (hallows), martyrs and the faithful departed were remembered. Even now, modern Christians may attend church to light candles to remember departed relatives on the 31st October.

To ward off the evil spirits, Irish Celts would carve scary faces into turnips or mangelwurzel, this evolved into pumpkin carving in America because pumpkins are plentiful around Halloween and easier to carve. The hollowed-out vegetables are lit with torches or candles, they are said to represent either spirits or supernatural beings or used to ward off evil spirits. In America, Halloween Pumpkins are known as Jack-o’-lanterns. The name Jack-o’-lantern is thought to be related to will-o’-the-wisp, a visual phenomenon meaning ‘foolish fire’, where wisp means a bundle of sticks or paper sometimes used as a torch.

Other things to try…

  • Sketch some new designs and make a second spooky pumpkin.
  • Try carving other vegetables, such as turnips and make a spooky Halloween display.
  • Have a go at our other Halloween activities – Smoking and Foaming Pumpkin, Trick or Treat, Smell My Feet, Halloween Glittery Cobwebs and Witches Cauldron <hyperlink each to their own activity page>
  • Use the scooped-out insides of your pumpkin to make roasted pumpkin seeds, pumpkin butter, pumpkin body treats or pumpkin soup.
  • Share photographs of your spooky Halloween Pumpkins on social media using #WhatsInMyTray.

Health & Safety

As with all Gratnells Learning Rooms What’s In My Tray activities, you should carry out your own risk assessment prior to undertaking any of the activities or demonstrations. In particular, take care when using a knife, this step should only be carried out by an adult or under close adult supervision.