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Not Your Average Apple Unit

By Naomi O'Brien



It’s that time of year. You know what time we’re talking about.
We love an apple unit as much as the next teacher…but when you think about the fact that so many of our beloved apple units consist of similar content from Pre-K to around 2nd grade…it makes you want to rethink your apple unit!

The (Potential) Problem

Imagine if all Pre-K through 2nd grade teachers were only teaching letters names for literacy, counting to 100 for math, or animal habitats for science… it’d be a problem. So, why do we let it happen for social studies year after year?

Our students have been taste-testing, graphing, stamping, and learning the lifecycle of apples for years in the classroom (and if we’re being really honest, they’ve probably done some apple taste testing at home). How can we offer a different experience? How can we shake it up? What more can we teach other than the same old Johnny Appleseed narrative?

The (Potential) Solution
If you’ve been following LaNesha and I for a while, you know we love to integrate honest history, maps, and social studies as much as we can into any lesson for our primary students.

Our motto is: Get Global. Keep your fun themes! They are engaging! Teach pumpkins, teach bats, teach turkeys, but  can you adjust these ‘traditional’ lesson and make real world connections?

Easy Trick:

Google whatever “fun” topic you want to introduce to your students and then add + history, + economics, + sociology, + culture, + civics, or + geography and see what you get.

That’s how LaNesha and I came up with our Not Your Average UnitsWe took the basic topics that we loved to teach, and connected them to real world events, past and present.


So, let’s take a look at apples. 

*Click any image to be taken to the resource*

Apples + History
Let’s start with Johnny. Johnny’s folktale is cool- but Johnny is so much more interesting than we might have been taught. We love to teach our students about the traditional legend- but then we sprinkle in some historical facts! Like the fact that Johnny wasn’t “poor” because of his bare feet and tattered clothing. He was actually very rich! A businessman, even. He’d plant orchards all over because at the time, there was a law in place that said that if you planted an orchard, you could claim the land. Plant and claim he did…and sold it to make a good amount of money!
Apples + Geography
We could get some geography in! We learned that the fist apple seeds were found in Asia. Eventually they were spread and traded on the Silk Road. We thought it would be a great way to tie in apples and geography in! Our students can learn what the Silk Road was and why it was a thing…then they can trace the routes on a map. The Silk Road shows up throughout history for so many reasons, the connections will be endless!
Apples + Economics
Honestly, this one is my favorite. We learned about the concept of market research after trying to guess what America’s favorite fruit was. Most children assumed that it was the apple- but really, was the banana! We read about the people who have the job of studying these spending trends and how that informs the way we spend and shop!
Apples + Sociology
We learned about the job of an apple picker…which is HARD work! Another interesting thing to consider is the concept of migrant workers. Many apple pickers are seasonal/migrant workers and in recent years, apple farms have reported that they are struggling to get the apples picked because workers are concerned about coming to the U.S. This is an interesting idea to grapple with. What happens to a farm if the crops can’t get harvested? Lots of interesting concepts to learn!
Apples + STEM
For a STEM connection, we ended up doing an experiment with fresh and frozen apples. That’s because we learned that some of the apples that we buy in the store can be up to one year old! The industry calls them “birthday apples!” They are kept in a temperature-controlled storage rooms. Students are SHOCKED when they learn this!

Click the image below to grab it!

And…if you liked this one….we have LOTS more where that came from! Check them out!



Hi, I'm Naomi

I have been teaching elementary students for over 10 years. Effective reading instruction and accurate social studies at the primary level are huge passions of mine! 

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