As summer draws to a close and autumn arrives, the richness of the season invites us to see the changing colors, hear the crackle of falling leaves, feel the cooler temperatures, smell the warm spices and taste the seasonal harvest. One of the most outstanding features of fall is the ripening of apples: red, yellow and green. The crisp, sweet fruit is delicious whether eaten raw or baked into a pie. But the fabled fall fruit also provides a wealth of seasonal STEAM projects for elementary kids. These fun fall learning activities capitalize on the best of the season through engagement in science, technology, engineering, art and math.
Edible Apple Activities
Kids of all ages love apples. From preschool onward, the humble fruit can support a variety of delicious and enlightening projects. As a food, they provide tasty and healthy opportunities to enjoy favorite recipes. Raw apples are a delicious and satisfying snack that can be enjoyed fresh from the tree on an apple picking trip to an orchard. But bring home a bushel, and you can try some of these additional yummy ideas:
- Oven-baked apple chips — Kids can help you peel and slice apples in thin horizontal slices to be slowly dehydrated in the oven. Be sure to talk about how dehydration is a chemical change that causes water to be released from the apple slices thus concentrating the sugars while drying them out. Try different types of apples and let kids pick their favorites. They also make an interesting and crunchy add-in to a healthy fall salad.
- Apple stacks — After you wash and slice apples horizontally, have kids help to spread the slices with nut butter, then sprinkle them with granola. They can then be reassembled into stacks that can be wrapped up and added to a school lunch or picnic basket.
- Apple and cheese skewers — Apples and cheese are a classic combination that provides protein and calcium along with the vitamins, antioxidants and fiber of the fruit. Cut cheese and apples into dice-sized pieces, and let kids thread them on skewers or large toothpicks alternating the cheese and fruit. If not to be eaten immediately, you may wish to dunk the apple cubes in acidulated water (1T. of lemon juice per cup of water) to prevent oxidation. Talk to kids about this chemical reaction that causes apples to turn brown once they are cut and exposed to air.
- Caramel apple squares — Another classic pairing is apples and caramel. This baked treat is a seasonal delight kids will look forward to helping you make each year when fall rolls around.
STEAMy Apple Projects
Aside from the edible treats, apples can support so many fun explorations with science, technology, engineering, art and math:
- With 2500 varieties of apples grown in the U.S. and 7500 grown worldwide, fall is a great time to try some of the 100 types grown commercially. Have kids select a few varieties to sample and offer wedges to family and friends, polling them on their favorite. Let kids collect the data and compile a bar graph or pictograph to display it.
- Help kids carefully dissect an apple, noting the different parts. Try planting the seeds, then read the story of Johnny Appleseed while waiting for them to sprout.
- Older kids can use fun facts about apples to generate research or engineering project ideas. Read a book about apples, then challenge kids to design a tool or process for picking, washing or cutting and peeling apples. Brainstorm a list of all the apple-related sayings you can think of (the apple of my eye, an apple a day, etc.) and have kids research their origin.
- Make colorful fall wrapping paper from sheets of white or brown kraft paper covered with apple prints. Cut apples in half, some vertically and some horizontally. Have kids paint the cut sides with acrylic or tempera paint in apple colors of red, green and yellow. Apples cut vertically will print the characteristic heart shape, while those cut horizontally show a star pattern in the middle. Once dry, the printed paper can be made into seasonal placemats or used to wrap fall birthday gifts. Another fun craft involves folding and cutting colored paper to create 3-D fruit,
- Kids can conduct a food science experiment that investigates which fruit juice works best to prevent apples from oxidizing and turning brown. If the fruit juice is the independent variable then keep every other variable the same, including the type of apple, size of slices, amount of fruit juice added to the water soak and the length of exposure time.
STEAM-powered Summer Camps
Elementary kids inspired by seasonal STEAM activities will enjoy the opportunity to get more involved in project-based learning at a STEAM-powered summer camp. Camp Galileo combines art and science with outdoor fun for the best the summer season has to offer. Four engaging themes allow kids to choose a topic that inspires them. Middle school kids who enjoy food science activities will appreciate the opportunity to try a cooking summer camp where they can gain basic food preparation skills while flexing their creative muscles and devising recipes all their own. Galileo Summer Quest offers a dozen immersive majors in which older kids can focus on chefology, robotics, mobile game design, go-karts and more.
Seasonal Fun Motivates Year-round Enjoyment
Though a common and familiar fruit, apples, nonetheless, capture kids’ imagination and interest. Fall, when apples are at their peak, is an opportune time to involve elementary kids in STEAM projects that engage them in seasonal learning activities but also provide nutritious snacks and loads of fun. Getting kids involved in kitchen STEAM projects can motivate year-round enjoyment as each season brings characteristic ingredients and holiday inspirations.
Check out these opportunities for STEAM-powered summer camps in your area: San Francisco, Southern California, and Chicagoland. Sign up for our mailing list to keep up-to-date on our camp happenings, innovation resources and registration updates for our 2019 camp season.