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Classroom Happenings: Applepalooza

The Steward School
A “tree-mendous” learning opportunity
Any way you slice it, learning can inspire new ways of thinking.

Just ask our first graders, who recently completed a series of lessons on apples that included theme-related books, art projects, the life cycle of apple trees, and other “a-peeling” discoveries. Their teachers, Jenny Haar, Kenley Smalkowski, and Sabra Willhite, along with Bryan Innovation Lab Specialist Suzanne Casey, collaborated to encourage these young Spartans to explore the wonders of apples through innovative, hands-on learning. 

Johnny Appleseed 
Inside the Bryan Innovation Lab, Ms. Casey sat with the first graders in a circle to tell them about the fun lessons awaiting them. She started by asking them about a book they’d recently read about Johnny Appleseed, a pioneer nurseryman who introduced apple trees to several parts of the United States. 

“Was Johnny Appleseed his real name?” she asked. “No!” they exclaimed excitedly. “His name was John Chapman!” She and the classroom teachers then led the first graders through several apple-centric art projects. 

Red, Green, Yellow
Using foam brushes, the students stood at tables and painted red, green, and yellow apples that had been sliced in half. They dabbed corresponding colors on the apples and then stamped the colorful fruit onto large pieces of white paper.

“While this artwork is drying, we’re going to paint another picture in a style known as pointillism … it’s a technique that uses little dots of paint,” instructed Mrs. Casey. She placed a large piece of paper that had been stenciled with the outline of a tree in front of each student. "You’ll use Q-tips dipped in brown or green or red paint … what color do you think you’ll use for the trunk, the leaves, and the apples?” she asked. The young artists got to work, dabbing tiny dots of paint on their masterpieces. 

“Ten Apples Up on Top!”
To the delight of the first graders, Ms. Casey read “Ten Apples Up on Top!” to them. The classic tale, written by Dr. Seuss, is the silly story of a dog, a lion, and a tiger who try to see how many apples they can balance on their heads as they skip, climb a tree, and walk a tightrope. 

Then it was the students’ turn to see how many red, green, and yellow cut-up foam “pool noodles” they could balance on each others’ (and their teachers’!) heads. 

“The students loved this exercise,” said Mrs. Casey. “Of course it was fun … but it was also a lesson in physics, engineering, and teamwork, as students learned the importance of problem-solving, balance, timing, and concentration.” 

Taste Buds
Rounding out the project was an apple tasting. Students nibbled on three types of apples and as a group described what they tasted (sweet, sour, or both). Mrs. Casey made a picture graph on a dry-erase board, and each student colored a paper apple of their favorite variety and placed it on the graph, making note of the differences and similarities that each of the classes made. It was a delicious conclusion to a well-rounded exploration. 


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