An Apple a Day, Keeps the Child Engaged, and Develops A Community

By Alexis Masingill

One day during snack, a few children were commenting that they really like apples, but the ones that were being served to them were too sour. I asked them what kind of apples they wanted. One group said, “the red ones.” Another group replied they liked sweet ones. Then I inquired if they would be interested in trying different varieties of apples, and most said yes. Colton and Charlie expressed wanting to make something with those apples. I started listing some options, and one child mentioned applesauce, and another suggested apple pie. 

I considered the conversation. I communicated the information I collected with Chef Sean and Shannon. I wanted to know if and how they have done apple tasting in the past.  I asked them if it was possible to work in the kitchen atelier to make applesauce. They both suggested allowing the children to be a part of the cutting process. They assured me that there were ample materials to enable them to practice their knife skills and work together as a community. I was able to get about seven different apples from a local grocery store. Chef Sean got us extra apples from the recent farmer’s market order. We set up a provocation in the kitchen atelier that began with a simple tasting and transition into cutting apples on cutting boards with knives to make our applesauce. 

We started our apple exploration by observing a variety of apples. As a first impression, we talked about the anatomy of the apple: the skin, stem, flesh, core, and seeds. The children looked at each apple to see the differences in colors, shape, and size. This natural flow of conversations allowed the children to make inferences about the apples before we tried them. Before we tasted the apples, Chef Sean came over. He gave a quick tutorial about how tasting is different than eating by using all our senses. As I handed out the small pieces of apple, we had the children look at the apple, feel it, smell it, listen for the crunch, and close their eyes to really experience the taste. They noticed if the apple was juicy. They often wanted more than one bite of the sweeter varieties. James mentioned that his apple tasted like honey. Charlie thought his apple tasted more like ice cream. Coretta reminded the other children to close their eyes when they ate it. And Bennett told everyone to “feel it” before they put it in their mouths.  

After we finished our tasting session, Chef Sean and Shannon gave a knife tutorial. We showed the children how to hold the handle. They learned how to push down on the back of the blade to cut through the apple. It was great to see children coach each other on their cutting skills. Coretta, Bennett, James, and Charlie wanted to cut precise pieces. Isla, Jackie, and Harry were mostly interested in eating and observing others’ cutting. This was an interesting perspective on seeing each child’s level of perseverance. These moments show that each child is intrinsically motivated to be a part of the process in their own way.

When we finished cutting all our apples, I took a slow cooker into the classroom to cook the apples during rest time. The aroma of the apple cooking filled the room with lovely smells. Many of the children waking up made comments about it. “It smells like a pie,” Charlie said. Massimo agreed and added, “I love apple pie.” I asked them if they wanted to help mash up the cooked apples to make the applesauce, and they agreed. We used a whisk and spoon to mix it up. Ted came over and helped as well. We offered it for an afternoon snack, and it was well-received. The Acorn and Seedling children enjoyed this sweet, warm treat.

This experience was so well received that we did this provocation with a new group of children the following week. It was interesting hearing their responses to the different tastings. Colton really wanted everyone to feel their apples and look at them carefully before tasting. This group of children was more interested in cutting than the apple tasting. The level of precision of cutting skills was higher as well, and they wanted to fill the container all the way to the top so we could make more applesauce than last time. Asha, Ella, and Colton really took their time cutting apple pieces small and into strips. Ella, Nyima, and Ted made more significant cuts but wanted to keep cutting after we were finished. Everett and Massimo just wanted to eat. We followed the same recipe and used the slow cooker. Since the children were more focused on making more applesauce, we were able to make more to be able to share this treat with the Acorn classroom for an afternoon snack.

 Since this activity was so successful, Shannon suggested we try making apple cider. She mentioned that she had experience making this with the children in the Olive room, so I immediately connected with Kelsie. As part of their community Friday plans, we both agreed that we wanted to involve the kindergarten children.

Involving the kindergarten children had allowed them to use their prior knowledge to support the learning of the Seedling children. Working together as a community allowed this collaboration of efforts to come to fruition. The Kindergarten children became mentors for the Seedling children. We had set a cutting station outside in the backyard. After they cut the apples, it was time to grind and press them. Children like Liam and Ethan were really wanting to show their abilities to use the grinder with Shannon, who was helping to assist and guide them through it. The number of apples that these children cut and prepared was an amazing feat. After we made the cider, it was time for the tasting. The children made comments like, “it’s so yummy,” and “this is like honey!” As more children filtered out to the yard for outdoor exploration, the children who engaged in this group were convincing others to come to taste their cider. It was great to hear these children tell their peers that they made it with a sense of pride.

This provocation started with a simple conversation over a snack. It blossomed into a valiant effort that was shared across multiple classrooms. Watching this process gave me the chance to see them take on a different level of responsibility and witness them becoming intrinsically motivated. The Seedling children really became invested in being part of the community and in genuinely sharing the fruits of their labor.

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