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An Apple for the Teacher: Activities for Johnny Appleseed's Birthday


Mark the occasion of the anniversary of Johnny Appleseed's birth by making these apple activities part of your "core" curriculum!

Matt, a fifth-grade student at Loveland Elementary School, pretends to interview Johnny Appleseed:

Q. Do you like apples?
A. Of course I do, why do you think my name is Johnny Appleseed?
Q. Why do you spread appleseeds?
A. I like apples and the world needed some umph!

Matt is just one of many students in Mrs. Gosnell's class who enjoyed this activity and posted their creative questions and answers on their Web page, An Interview with Johnny Appleseed.

Another group of students from Amherst Island Public School in Stella, Ontario, have created wonderful stories about apples and posted them, with their original illustrations, on the Internet. Their Apple Stories describe disappearing apples, magic apples -- and the very first apple!

Those are just two of the many activities teachers have created to integrate apples into their students' learning experiences. If you are looking for a slice of apple to share with your class, try these online resources!

I Love Apples a Bushel and a Peck: Apple Activities of Many Varities

Language arts—letter writing. Have your students visit Johnny Appleseed or Johnny's Story to become familiar with the history of Johnny Appleseed and his accomplishments. Then have them write "Dear John Letters" -- letters to Johnny Appleseed. They may use a friendly letter format that you display and include any questions they might like to ask him, comment on his many escapades, or thank him for helping to spread apple trees across the United States. Older students might write letters as Johnny Appleseed to explain how and why he planted apple seeds.

Math—fractions. One food that many teachers use in trying to convey the meaning of fractions is pizza, but have you ever heard of Apple Pizza? Yes, it does exist! Try this recipe with your class. When the pizza is done baking, cut it in half, quarters, etc., and discuss the various related fractions. What a delicious way to enjoy math!

Science—seeds and charting results. There are many beautiful and delectable apple varieties, each with its own flavor and purpose. Try a little scientific investigation with the varieties available in your area. Have each of your students bring an apple to class on a specific day. If they can remember, have them write down the name of the varieties they bring. Use the Apple Varieties guide to identify those that are in question. Have your students guess the number of seeds that an apple may have. Do they believe that all of the apples will have the same number? As you peel the apples, keep track on a chart of the number of seeds you find in each kind of apple. In the end, evaluate your results. This activity would go well with the "Apple Tasting Party" below.

Health/nutrition—apple smile. One of the most fun snacks I have seen children make also happens to be very nutritious. It's the apple smile. Wash and cut unpeeled red apples into about eight slices. Give two slices to each child. Have the group use popsicle sticks to spread peanut butter on one side of each slice. Pass out a few small marshmallows to each child, and tell the students to place them on one apple slice on top of the peanut butter. Put the other slice on the marshmallows so that the layers look like a mouth with peanut butter in the middle and the two red peeling edges showing on one side. You now have a delicious apple smile! (This activity is a good one for Dental Health Month too!)

Language arts—apple books. There are many apple-related stories that appeal to elementary students. Young children love Dr. Seuss's Ten Apples Up on Top, and the fairytale Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. (In this case, it's a poison apple.) Another more contemporary apple story is Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree.

Social studies—virtual field trip. Imagine a trip to an apple orchard without leaving the classroom. That is exactly what this site offers. It is a totally virtual field trip, one students can only take with their minds! Visit to the Apple Orchard describes the experience of visiting an apple orchard and picking apples. It poses thought-provoking questions for students to answer. This Web site would be a wonderful warm-up to a real trip to an orchard if there's one nearby.

Math—converting units of volume. It can be difficult at times to convince students that math really impacts their daily lives and therefore has importance to them in the future, but this activity could help. Remind your students that if they visit a farmer's market or fruit stand, they should know the units of measure that they will encounter. How will they know the most economical way to purchase fruits and vegetables without understanding the way that they are sold? Have the class experiment with some measurements at Capacity and Volume Conversion and find the difference between a bushel and a peck. Is it better to be loved a bushel or a peck?

Language arts—say it with apples. Many sayings that we use everyday have the word "apple" in them. Consider "an apple a day keeps the doctor away," "the apple of my eye," "as American as apple pie," and "an apple doesn't fall far from the tree." Have your students choose an apple phrase and research its history and meaning.

Art—shrunken heads. One fun way to play with apples is to create "shrunken heads." Have your students carve apples into heads with faces. You may use whole cloves to accent them if you like, and then lay them out to dry. As they lose their moisture, they become smaller and more hilarious. You might consider using phrases from the language arts activity above to give them more personality. Write them on speech bubbles and place them with the heads.

Social studies/history—"'Good Samaritan' or entrepreneur?" debate. Who was the real Johnny Appleseed? We know that his given name was John Chapman, but was he more of a Good Samaritan or an entrepreneur? Your students can be the jury. Have them read library resources and debate the questions. In the end, take a vote to see how most of the students view Johnny after studying his life closely.

History—historical ballad. William Tell is another fabled character often associated with the apple. Your students can learn more about his life and the shot that "split the apple in two" above the head of his young son by searching through online encyclopedias. Have class members work in small groups to create historical ballads that tell the tale of William Tell and share them with the group.

Language arts—make a chart. What state has the best apples? The answer to that question is dependent on the criteria used. Your students can choose their own criteria and set up a chart that explains their research and findings. Their criteria might include number of apples grown, number of varieties, percentage of market shared, area of state that is occupied by orchards, etc. Have them compare the states of Michigan, North Carolina, and Washington by using information from the Web sites Michigan Apples, North Carolina Apples, and Washington State Apple Commission.

Science—design an invention. Study the seasons of an apple orchard and the many tasks that must be completed in order for it to continue to grow a healthy crop by touring Alyson's Apple Orchard: The Seasons. Have your students choose some task that must be done on the orchard and design a new tool to help it go more smoothly. Or students could design a new peeler, corer, or other gadget that a consumer could use once the fruit has been purchased.

Nutrition—apple tasting party. Applesource offers instructions for having an apple tasting party. Party-goers enjoy the many varieties of apples and compare their flavor, texture, and aroma. You will find directions for holding your own party, for keeping a record of the tasters' preferences, and for evaluating the results at the end of your soiree.


Article by Cara Bafile
Education World®
Copyright © 2017  Education World


Originally published 09/19/2002
Last updated 09/26/2017