On Stability and Change: The Apple
This month, we are studying the concepts of stability and change. The first of our nature-based studies involves a favorite autumn topic in New England: apples.
Apples present an excellent opportunity to study stability and change, in both spring and fall, where we can study the transformation of the bare tree to one with leaves, the emergence of leaves and flowers from buds, the growth of apple fruits from the spent blossoms, the gradual ripening of the fruit, and the ultimate dropping of fruits and leaves as the fall winds down to winter.
This is also a nice opportunity to begin to talk about the structures of flowers and fruits, using the familiar, and accessible, apple, even during the winter months. Use the “Apple a Day” notebooking pages, for these, and other, activities.
A Year of Studies, by Season
An apple tree, all year round
Using the “Adopt-a-Plant” strategy, choose an apple tree (or, if you do not live near one, a crabapple tree will do), and observe it very early in the spring, before the leaves emerge (March or so, here in New England). Sketch the tree, or one branch on the tree in one frame, and provide a narrative to accompany each drawing. Add additional pages, as necessary. Here are some questions you might use as prompts for sketching and writing:
- Sketch a bud on a twig. How are the buds protected in the winter? Carefully dissect a bud. What do you see inside?
- As the bud opens, what parts of the bud remain? What happens to the other parts? Why do you think this happens?
- Notice the markings and scars near the buds. What do you think cause them? Explain.
- Count the number of nodes from the tip of a branch to the trunk. How old is the branch? Explain how you figured this out.
- Sketch an opening bud. What parts do you see first, the flowers or the leaves? Do they come out at the same time? Do all buds produce leaves and flowers? Describe what you see.
- Draw an opening apple blossom. Label these parts: stem, stipules, calyx, sepals.
- Sketch an open apple blossom. How many petals do you see? Draw the calyx behind the petals. What shape is the apple blossom? Color your drawing. Are the petals the same color on the inside as the outside? Why do buds and the blossoms appear different colors?
- Draw an open apple blossom. Label these parts: petals, stamens, filament, anther, pistil, stigma.
- Have an adult help you cut open the base of the apple blossom. What do you see inside? What do you think these become? Use what you know about apples to help you answer.
- Carefully sketch the arrangement of the new leaves as they grow around the blossom. What color are they? Do they stay this color?
- Sketch a twig or blossom after the petals fall. What parts remain? What parts are missing? Why do you think some parts fall off? What part do you think becomes the apple fruit that you eat? What becomes the seeds?
- Use a piece of colorful tape to mark one twig with developing apples. Return to sketch one developing apple, once a week. Identify any parts of the original blossom that remain.
- How many apples grow from one winter bud? How many leaves? Draw a branch and show the arrangement of apples and leaves.
- Does the apple branch keep on growing? What part grows after the fruit forms?
- Sketch three apples of different varieties, making sure to render the shape accurately. Describe the differences and similarities in these areas: shape, stem, color.
- Observe a ripe apple on a tree. Notice the color. Is it the same color everywhere? Develop a hypothesis about the role of air temperature and sunlight in the development of apple fruit color.
- Carefully draw and color one apple. Is it the same color everywhere? Are they spots or streaks? Is it the same color on both sides?
- Draw a ripe apple (outside and inside views). Identify the flower parts that created the structures you see.
- Use words to describe the texture of the apple skin. What function does the skin serve? (See Experiment 1)
- Cut up apples of five varieties. Create a data table to compare and rate them from 1-5 based on these factors: color (1=greenest skin, 5=reddest skin), texture (1=coarsest pulp, 5=finest pulp); crispness (1=crispiest, 5=softest), juiciness (1=juiciest, 5=driest), taste (1=most sour, 5=sweetest), aroma (1=no aroma, 5=strongest aroma).
- Cut apples of several varieties from stem to flower end. Draw and compare the core area.
- Gather an apple, a pear, a peach, a plum and a cherry. Carefully cut each in half, starting at the stem end. Sketch what you see. What is the same about all these fruits? What is different?
- Cut an apple from end to end, along the core. Sketch what you see. Note the core line. Can you connect the stem to the flower end through the core? Why?
- Cut another apple across the core. Sketch what you see in this view. Identify the flower parts that formed what you see. Draw the seed cells. Can you see faint dots between the cells? What do you think these are? How many seeds do you find in each cell (carpel)?
- List all the apple varieties you know. Use other resources to find more names. Sort them by use, color, country of origin.
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These experiments are adapted from The Handbook of Nature Study (Anna Botsford Comstock), where you can get many other ideas for prompts for botany journaling or classroom discussion, as well as great background information for you, the teacher.
Experiment 1. The role of the apple peel
Take three apples of similar size, shape, and soundness. Peel one. Place the peeled apple on a desk or shelf. Place one of the unpeeled apples so that it is touching the peeled apple. Place the remaining unpeeled apple on the other side of the peeled apple, but at a distance, so it does not touch.
Which one would you predict would rot first? Which one would you predict would rot next? Where would the rot start? Why do you think this?
Develop a hypothesis to explain your thinking. Explain what you think the role the skin serves in the life cycle of the apple tree.
Observe the apples for rot over the next several days. Evaluate your hypothesis.
Experiment 2: More on the role of the apple peel
Take the rotten apple from the first experiment. Use a safety pin or a needle to prick the flesh of the rotten fruit, then use the juice-covered pin to prick a healthy fruit. Go back and forth, pricking the rotten fruit once, then pricking the good fruit, making your initials in the good fruit. Put the inoculated apple on a desk or table. Throw away the rotten fruit or compost it.
Develop a hypothesis about where rot will begin on the inoculated fruit.
Observe the inoculated fruit over the next several days. Note where rot begins. Explain why you think this is so. Also relate your findings to how apples should be handled at the orchard, in shipping, and in the grocery store, to ensure long shelf life.
Share Your Work!
Make sure that you share your October apple work on the Simple Science Strategies Blog Carnival. Entries are due on October 26, for posting by November 1.
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