Directly teaching about apples is not truly connected to any Performance Expectations. It is, however, a requirement in the school district I teach in to focus on the apple and it's importance within our community. I live in an agricultural community that thrives upon the growing and exporting of our apples. For this reason, it is important to teach our students about the apple and it's part in the shaping of our community. Doing so, means learning not only about the social aspect of the impact this fruit has on our community, but the scientific as well.
There is a huge element of science involved in growing our apples.
I hold up a beautiful replica of an apple that I purchased at a local craft store. One that I have used for many years. It is still as beautiful as the day I purchased it and it helps to demonstrate the point I want to share with my students. Understanding the difference between a replica and a real object seems obvious and easy, but understanding the purpose for that model can be more difficult. (SP2)
Scientists use models for many different reasons: to explain scientific concepts, to explain the purpose of the concept in nature, or to test predictions, hypotheses and further testing. (SP4)
The purpose for my model is to scaffold learning that will establish the apple as a system. However, I also want to reinforce and connect this learning to prior lessons on creating diagrams and models. I want to offer more practice for the students to really work on establishing models and understanding their purpose.
I show my students the replica and ask them what I am holding in my hand. Of course, they unanimously answer...."an apple." Which is exactly what I would hope they would answer.
My follow up question...."Is it real? How do you know?"
The apples are sitting side by side and I ask the children, "Can you tell the difference between the two apples now?"
The children offer many suggestions, but the biggest one is that they can smell a difference. I explain that I have brought an apple for each of their teams to use for a few different investigations. The first one will be to use it as a model to practice their diagramming and sketching skills.
I have the My Apple Observation booklet (teacher version) on my screen ready to display. Slide one is the title page and really sums up what the whole learning will be for the next several days. The children are very excited knowing that we have some fun ahead of us. They are anxious to see what will be coming. I move to slide two and explain that this will be the first task to accomplish. I really like to use Power Points to teach my lessons. They offer an added bonus of the large visuals and written language attached that can explicitly add extra detail for ELL students.
I then pass our the "My Apple Obeservation" student version, that I have created for them to document and gather all the evidence that we will be working with their team apples. The student booklet is put together in one journal to keep all the information in one place and alleviate using too many papers that can get lost or misplaced.
I explain to the children that we will only be using this sketching page for today. The other pages will be used in lessons that will be coming in later days.
I tell the children to turn to the page two. This is the page that they will be documenting the observations of the apple on. I explain that to begin they are only going to sketch their team apple in the first box.
Right away the children make quick connections and I begin hearing comments like, "this is just like what we did with our insects" and "we made diagrams with the insects too." This makes me happy to hear, because this was one thing I was trying to establish. Connecting learning from prior lessons to this learning.
I allow the children about five minutes to sketch out what they observe in the apple. I remind them to fill up the box, that a solid scientific sketch is large enough to see details and all that their eyes can observe. A small sketch won't help to establish details in the drawing. This also allows for a chance to discuss scale size too. Pointing out that the sketches the children are creating are not accurate in size, but more so in what they observe. Scientists will often times sketch the objects they are observing in a larger format in order to remember what they observed in more detail.
After all the children have had an opportunity to sketch the apple, I then share with them the The Parts of an Apple power point. Because we have been discussing the differences between replicas, models, and live specimens; I want the children to realize that there are parts that make up the apple.
Instantly, when the children see the diagram on slide two, I hear comments such as, "This is a system!" "We have seen this before." Which definitely makes me happy that they have been able to bring back the previous learning from lessons taught earlier. (Inquiry Unit - Systems Lesson)
We look together at the apple the children have on their tables and then look at the apple diagram on the screen. The children become excited when they realize they see words they recognize. Such as the skin, seeds and stem. Of course, new vocabulary is also introduced in the "flesh, calyx, and the core."
I have students take turns holding their team apple and pointing the parts individually one at a time. I want to make sure they are able to find the corresponding parts on the screen to the actual part of te apple.
Once we have established all the parts, conversation begins to happen about the functions of each of those parts. Why they are so important. While I am certain that many of the children have preconceived ideas about each of those parts, I try to not dig into this conversation too deeply. This will be a conversation that will come in a later lesson.
I next have the children look very closely at the apple they have in their teams. I want them to look for all the characteristics that make the apple unique. Down to any imperfections they may see on the apple.
I explain to the children that I will put some working music on to allow them to focus completely on their sketch. I play classical music during a good portion of our day. It offers quiet time to focus and work completely on the task at hand. Students actually, will ask and request the music to be played as background sound while they are working.
While the music is playing, the children begin sketching what they see. The interesting thing is the perspective they all see the apple from. Because the apple is in the middle of the team, each child is actually observing a different part of the apple and their unique perspectives on the apple are always interesting.
After the children have had the opportunity to sketch the apple in its "live" state and also the sketch with the diagram and labels, I ask students to explain the difference between the real and replica.
I want to ascertain that they have indeed understood the differences between their sketches.