What's a Papaya? Photos to Engage Students with Shake the Papaya Down


It had been a very long time (pre-pandemic) since I have seen my sister and her family.  We finally had the chance to travel to Florida for a much needed visit and I was pleasantly surprised to find that they have papaya trees growing in their yard!  Sweet!  I was humming calypso all week.

I have used the song Shake the Papaya Down many times over the years and always have to give an explanation on what are papayas and why are we shaking them down?  Students will become more engaged with a lesson when they have some background knowledge on the topic. Papayas aren’t found in too many grocery stores, so not many families are able to include them in their regular meals.

I know my students would love to see my pictures.  Maybe you and your students will like to see them, too.

What are papayas?

Papayas are a soft tropical fruit that is yellowish-orange in color. They are healthy, low-calorie food, with lots of vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Central America

Papayas are native to Central America and now grow in many tropical and subtropical regions of the world.

Papaya Trees Grow Fast!

With the right growing conditions, a papaya seed will grow and produce fruit within one year. In a hot climate, they will produce fruit in 6-9 months.

Growing Papaya Trees

Papaya trees like a hot climate, full sun, well drained soil, and frequent watering. This tree is growing in my sister's yard in Florida. 

Papaya Leaves are BIG!

The leaves of a papaya tree may grow up to 3 feet wide!

Papaya Flowers

Papaya trees can bloom year-round. The blooms then produce the fruit.

Papaya Fruit  

Papaya fruit grows in clusters near the top of the tree. Green fruit is not yet ripe. 

The fruit begins to turn orange or yellow as it ripens. 

Ripe fruit will be mostly yellow or orange in color.

The seeds are dark in color.

Do Papayas Taste Good?  

Yes! Papayas taste very similar to cantaloupe melons or mango. Ripe papayas have a buttery texture and seem to melt in your mouth.  It was sweet to have fresh papaya every morning for breakfast!

Harvesting Papayas

People climb the papaya trees to twist off the fruit. Sometimes children climb the trees and shake the papayas off the tree.

Shake the Papaya Down

This Jamaican folk song tells the story of children completing their mother’s chores by climbing up the tall tree and shaking the papayas down.

The Calypso style of music is common in Jamaica and the Caribbean.


Mama says no play, this is a work day.
Up with the bright sun, get all the work done.
If you will help me, climb up the tall tree
Shake the papaya down

  Listen to Shake the Papaya Down

Using the linked video, listen to the song. Discuss how the song makes them feel. Identify the musical style as calypso, originating in the Caribbean islands. Consider adding beat movements as you listen again. Sing the song along with the video.

Movement Ideas from YouTube

Dance with creative interludes


Depending on the age of your students and your curricular goals, you can stop with singing and movement or extend the lesson by teaching additional concepts using the song.


Rhythm Reading

Introduce or review the syncopa rhythm pattern using this video or your own teaching method.

Safeshare Link:  

Part Singing

The sheet music on the following link includes three distinct parts which can be sung at the same time, as partner songs.

This choral arrangement video gives you a beautiful idea on how this could sound. The hand movements are especially nice, even if you choose to sing the 3 parts separately rather than as partner songs.

Choral Arrangement with Hand Movements

Lesson Slides Resource

You are more than welcome to scroll through this blog post with your students!  

If a Google™Slides version would be easier for use in the classroom, please consider this resource in my shop.  In addition to 20 lesson slides that include the photos and facts, there are 2 quick quiz slides for use as discussion starters or exit ticket questions and 2 lyrics/coloring pages for use as a take home sheet or a listening activity.  The lesson slides and color page would even make a great sub plan!

It was really great to visit my sister and her family. I hope you enjoyed looking at my vacation photos!  This restful visit was beneficial in more ways than one!



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