September 2021

Pumpkin Spice and Everything Nice

 

By Dr. Amy L. Holland, Geography Teacher
Grimsley Junior High School, Bentonville, Arkansas

I’m a huge pumpkin spice fan. I love it in my coffee, usually to the point that my coffee holds more pumpkin spice than coffee! The smell and flavor bring back memories of time spent with family and friends, in previous fall seasons. There’s something so pleasant about certain smells. They bring a nostalgic feeling and pumpkin spice definitely puts me in the holiday spirit, even if it is only October.

One of my favorite units in geography involves our culture unit. It’s a great time for students to research their heritage or even just learn about different cultures around the world. I love talking with my students about my Native American heritage and knowledge of my family’s journey on the Trail of Tears. I also love reading about their traditions and cultural elements. It definitely helps guide my future lessons and makes our school wide food day one that involves culture as well.

Around October I have my students complete a spice activity. I have different spices out on a counter, without the label. The students can smell it, or not, their choice, and determine what spice flavor they smell. Students love this activity because many times it brings up a memory from their childhood or it’s a spice their parents use a lot while cooking. At the end of the lesson students research and report on how a spice is used and where you can find the spice. It’s fun to allow students to use their senses when completing different activities.

I also love having students bring in cookies or some type of dessert that is a tradition for their family. My own family cooks Kringlas each year, a fun sweet breaded cookie. Most of my students can eat this cookie, but I do provide alternative snacks on our food day if students can’t eat flour based products. Students love telling me about their holiday traditions or traditions from their backgrounds throughout the year.

The fall season seems to be a time where pumpkin spice and everything nice go hand in hand. The seasons are changing; the students are excited about the upcoming holidays and school breaks–excitement is definitely in the air. Cultural studies and learning how to be respectful of one another's cultures just comes naturally during this time of year. Oh, and having a little bit of pumpkin spice in my coffee just about makes the school days perfect.

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