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Explore Soil Health With Kids Through An Apple’s Life Cycle + Free Printable Activity Cards

Follow the journey of an apple to engage your learners in the science of composting and healthy soil and the power of their daily actions.

My kids love apples. To be quite honest, I don’t think I’ve ever met a child that didn’t like this fantastic fruit. From applesauce to apple slices, they are a staple on our lunch menu.

We are fortunate to live within walking distance of an apple orchard, so my kids witness firsthand how apple trees blossom and slowly form their fruits. We see fallen apples as we walk through the orchard and notice how quickly the worms, insects, and deer devour the fresh fruit, leaving behind little more than a core.

These simple observations help my kids connect why we compost our apple cores to the cycles of nature. At home, we try to mimic the natural process we admire on our walks.

Not everyone has an apple orchard in their neighborhood. However, we can make connections between the apples in our lunch boxes and the role those apples play in soil regeneration with the right tools to guide our exploration.

We’ve created some simple apple life cycle activities to engage your learners in the science of soil regeneration and the benefits of composting your apple cores. No matter where you live, the following activities can help children understand the circular journey of apples from seed to soil and why this is important for the health of our community.

Materials Needed for the Apple Life Cycle Activity

To conduct this hands-on activity, you will need the following materials:

  • Apple Life Cycle Printable (we created this for you and you can download for free below)
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Thin cardboard or chipboard, such as a cereal box

How to Create the Apple Life Cycle Cards

To conduct this simple storytelling activity about the life cycle of an apple, complete the following steps:

  • Download and print the apple life cycle printable we created for you.
  • Cut out each card along the solid lines.
  • To provide stability to the cards and make them last longer, glue a thin piece of cardboard or chipboard to the back of each. We like to use cereal or cracker boxes as backing. This extra step serves the same purpose as lamination, without the plastic.

The Life Cycle of an Apple Activity

Start the apple life cycle activity by walking your learners through the following steps in a clockwise fashion, laying the cards out in a circle as you go. This basic storyline allows your learner to see one possible scenario involving the life cycle of an apple.

  1. An apple tree stands in an orchard.
  2. In the spring, the tree blossoms.
  3. Once pollinated, the blossoms fall off and in each blossom’s place, an apple grows.
  4. Once the apples ripen, they become too heavy for the tree and fall to the ground.
  5. A passing deer takes a bite of the fallen apple.
  6. A worm eats the apple core.
  7. The apple core breaks down into the soil.
  8. The remaining nutrients from the apple nourish the soil surrounding the tree, helping it to bloom again in the spring.

Once you have demonstrated this scenario to your learners, remove the cards and begin a new scenario, one that involves human intervention. Notice, you’ll use steps 1-3 from the first scenario to begin your second story.

  1. An apple tree stands in an orchard.
  2. In the spring, the tree blossoms.
  3. Once pollinated, the blossoms fall off and in each blossom’s place, an apple grows.
  4. Once the apples ripen, a farmer picks them.
  5. The farmer ships the apples to a grocery store.
  6. A woman purchases the apples at the store.
  7. The woman drives home with the apples.
  8. Once home, the woman’s child eats an apple.

What happens next? Allow your students to see the remaining cards and determine the two possible outcomes for the story. This is kind of like a “Choose Your Own Ending” story but through the lens of sustainability science. Depending on the age of your learners, you may have to guide them through each possible scenario.

Possible Ending Scenario 1

  1. The child throws the apple core in the trash can.
  2. A garbage truck picks up the trash and transports it to the landfill.
  3. At the landfill, the apple core slowly decomposes in the absence of oxygen, creating harmful greenhouse gases like methane.

Possible Ending Scenario 2

  1. The child throws the apple core in the compost bin.
  2. The contents of the compost bin are added to a compost pile.
  3. The apple core decomposes in the presence of oxygen, adding nutrients to the soil.

At this point, ask your learners which ending scenario best mimics nature. They should choose to end with Scenario 2, as the apple core returns nutrients to the soil. If your learners are unsure about what a compost bin is, or how composting works, you may want to extend this activity to include our Composting Science for Kids lesson, which goes into more detail about this soil regeneration process.

Practicing English Language Arts (ELA) Skills with An Apple’s Life Cycle Lesson

After exploring the possible scenarios discussed above, you can extend your students’ learning by instructing them to do any of the following:

  • Have students clear their cards and recreate one of the scenarios from memory.
  • Ask students to write one of the scenarios step by step to practice organizing a process in chronological order.
  • Pair students up and have them take turns reciting a scenario to each other, using the cards for guidance.
  • Ask students to create additional scenarios by drawing more cards to complete their story.

Download the Apple’s Journey Activity Cards

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    About The Author

    image of Jess Purcell, co-founder of RGK

    Jess Purcell

    Jess Purcell, a co-founder of Raising Global Kidizens, is a science educator who is dedicated to making the science of sustainability accessible to all learners. She creates sustainability science lessons and nature activities written for students of all ages to be done in the classroom or at home to foster critical thinking skills and a love of the natural world. You can find more of her work at Thoughtfully Sustainable.

    Jess lives in central Pennsylvania with her husband, two kids, and two cats and can usually be found outside, working out the kinks of an experiment, upcycling trash into “treasure”, hiking with her family, or attempting to read a book while being cajoled into a game of hide-and-seek.

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