Planting an Orchard

Terraced on the hillside at Step One School in Berkeley is a small orchard that I was privileged to visit on more than one occasion. When a school makes the commitment to plant an apple tree (or has the space for an orchard) they are giving children another opportunity to learn about where our food comes from. Children can learn the growing cycle from bare tree, through leafing, flowering, fruiting, harvesting, leaf dropping and bare tree again. As they care for and observe the tree, they can learn about life cycles, reciprocity, patience, the scientific process, beauty, nature, and the seasons.

If you are thinking about planting an apple tree or any kind of fruit tree in your program I would recommend that you take the time to visit the Trees of Antiquity web site. Their site is beautiful and offers 155 heirloom apples trees! Each varietal is described, and you are provided with many other important details such as its growing zones, and pollination information. And as a chef, I often refer to this site to glean information about the origins of the apples that we tasting in our program to share with families, faculty and the community.


Apples: The Literacy Link

Every autumn I pull from the bookshelf my picture books on apples. Curling up with the children we visit with them like they are long lost friends. I understand the young learners in my class will deepen their knowledge of apples by tasting, picking, cooking, drawing, and hearing stories. Below is a list of my favorites that you can probably find in your local library. Happy Reading!

Apple Picking Time by Michele Benoit Slawson and illustrated by Deborah Logan Ray
The Seasons of Arnold’s Apple Tree by Gail Gibbons
Apple Farmer Annie by Monica Wellington
Apples and Pumpkins by Anne Rockwell and illustrated by Lizzy Rockwell
Apples, Apples, Apples written and illustrated by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace
Apples by Gail Gibbons
Bring Me Some Apples and I’ll Make You a Pie by Robbin Gourley
How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World by Marjorie Priceman
The Apple Pie Tree by Zoe Hall and illustrated by Shari Halpern
Apples to Oregon by Deborah Hopkinson and illustrated by Nancy Carpenter


From Applesauce to Apple Muffins

I believe it is important for children to understand that applesauce also can be used as an ingredient—constructing their knowledge of the transforming of the apple into applesauce—into the apple muffins. Below is my recipe. Enjoy!

Apple Muffins
Yield 12 muffins

For the muffins:
1 cup Oats, thick rolled
1 ¼ cups Flour, all-purpose
¾ cup Sugar, granulated
2 teaspoons, Baking powder
1 cup Applesauce, class made
1 teaspoon vanilla, pure extract
4 tablespoons Milk, (you can substitute soy milk or rice milk if you have dairy allergies)
¼ cup Oil, canola organic

For the topping:
1 ½ tablespoons Sugar, brown
½ teaspoon Ground cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. In a large glass bowl, together with the children, combine the oats, flour, sugar, baking powder, applesauce, vanilla, milk and organic canola oil in a large glass bowl. Stir until completely mixed—it will be quite thick.
3. Place the muffin tin liners into the muffin tins together with the children. Using an ice cream scoop (the kind with the lever) let the children place one scoop of the batter into each of the muffin cups. Each cup should be about three-quarters full.
4. Make the topping by combining brown sugar and cinnamon with fingers. Allow the toddlers to sprinkle the topping on to the tops of the scooped batter.
5. Bake for 15 minutes or until the toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center of the muffins.
6. Cool, gobble them up!


From Apples to Applesauce

Applesauce is a super yummy food that toddlers love to make and eat. Young learners are constructing their knowledge of the transformation of the whole form apple into the cooked form—applesauce. They use their whole bodies as they master the use of the apple corer and peelers. The apple corer and peeler only manipulate the fruit if it is turned in the clockwise direction which can be hard for the children to understand. I pause to say, “Hum, why is the fruit not moving? What might we do differently to make the fruit move?” The toddler may then try to turn the crank in the opposite direction to get the fruit moving. Young learners witness the deconstruction of the fruit; waiting to hear the “ping” that signals to all of us that the fruit has been transformed into, rings, peel, and core. The toddlers place the apple rings into the crock pot, and the peel and core into the compost. We cook the apples in a crock pot in our classroom—adding only a little water so that as they began to cook they don’t stick and burn. As they cook the smell of autumn is enjoyed by all of us. We gobble up the cooled applesauce as a part of our snack the next morning!


A Gravenstein in the Palm of a Small Hand

In one of the mixed aged preschool rooms at our school the children were each given their own Coke Farm’s Gravenstein apple to hold in the palm of their small hands. They fit perfectly there. Can you remember when you held your very first apple, and what it was like to bite into it? For many of these children it was their first opportunity to eat apples in whole form. One three-year-old was busy devouring her apple, when the neighboring four-year-old announced she needed another apple. “No you don’t” said the three-year-old. “You need to eat the back of your apple.” The three-year-old showed the four-year-old how to turn her apple to see the back, so that she could then begin to enjoy eating the back of the fruit. I guess apples have more than names — they also have a front and a back!