Home School Life Journal From Preschool to High School

Home School Life Journal ........... Ceramics by Katie Bergenholtz
"Let us strive to make each moment beautiful."
Saint Francis DeSales

Handbook of Nature Study Lesson #184: Apples

James picking apples off our tree. (2008)
"The apple is a nutritious fruit, wholesome and easily digested. The varieties of apple differ in shape, color, size, color, texture and flavor. A perfect apple has no bruise upon it and no wormholes in it."
-Handbook of Nature Study, page 669

We are fortunate enough to have an apple tree in our backyard, so our study of the apple and its tree began in 2008 with picking the apples off the tree. We looked at the apple's shape and determined that it was neither round, nor egg-shaped, but something in between; a little heart-shaped, but not exactly. Then we looked at it's color. We talked about how some apples are red, some yellow and some are green. Our apples are an interesting blend of all three colors with lots of streaks and freckles, and we talked about how that probably meant that the tree had been a graft of more than one tree to create this blend. The stem is long and woody. and the depression when the stem grow is deep.
Alex picking apples in the backyard. (2008)
We looked at the bottom of the apple and noted that you could see five "scales." We had studied the Rose family and learned that the Apple tree is in the Rose family and that the fruit from these plants form beneath the flowers. The five pointed star at the base of these fruits is formed by the sepals that used to be around the blossom.
We cut open the apples and noted that the carpels, or the cells that hold the seeds (5, of course) form a 5-pointed star when cut across in half. When cut along the core, the carpels remain in tact and you can see that the case is smooth and shiny and that they each hold the seeds pointing toward the stem. The whole system is so precisely organized and consistent.
We took our cut apples and dipped them in white paint and printed them on various apple-colored papers.
It is amazing that you can see something like an apple a million times in your life and never notice these details until you really look at them.
I had never noticed before myself that the flesh part of the inner apple has a division between the inner core and the outer core. The inner core is "marked off from the rest of the pulp by the core lines, fain in some varieties but distinct in others." You really can see these lines that surround the core of the apple and branch out vertically to divide the apple into two parts. These lines almost look like twinkle lines around the inner star. It is amazing that you can see something like an apple a million times in your life and never notice these details until you really look at them. We decided to make apple prints to put in their nature notebooks. We took our cut apples and dipped them in white paint and printed them on various apple-colored papers. We will let these dry, cut them out and add the various parts of the apple later on in the week, using real seeds and markers.

The Apple Orchard Tradition, 2010
Going to the orchard to pick apples has been a bit of a traditon in our house even though we have an apple tree in the backyard. There is something very festive about it. I remember the first time we went. It was one of Katie's first activities when we started homeschooling. Alex was still a baby in the stroller. The orchard had just gotten in Fuji apples and we tried them for the first time. Oh, they were so good! This year we went to an orchard very close to home.
Katie at apple orchard. (2010)
Picking apples 2010
Apple Orchard, 2010
We decided this year to revisit the apple for nature study and that we would compare and contrast different types of apples this time.

I cut a Golden Delicious, Gala, Honeycrisp and Winesap apple in half, left half on the plate so they could compare the outside look of the apple, and cut the other apple into quarters so they each could try a piece of each apple.

We compared them inside and out, their scent, their shape, their color, and of course, their taste. I tried to get them to use as descriptive words as possible and I asked them to rank them according to how much they liked them

We discussed how color, texture and taste could affect their desireability.

And then, I invited them to make pastel pictures of the apple of their choice.

We used this wonderful pastel tutorial to help guide us through it.

Quentin's, age 6

James', age 9

Alex, age 16

Katie's, age 19

These will be added to their nature journals.


  1. Excellent detailed study of the apple...we will be studying apples as part of the Autumn 2010 series so be prepared. :)

    I think I caught up on reading your links....thanks so much for taking the time to share your links and studies.

  2. What a wonderful, extended study - with your own backyard, the orchard trip, comparing the different types and the pastels! Your children had such beautiful results. I agree that we see so much more when we stop to take notice of something we think common.

    We did our study today and learned so much! Nana will be thrilled to see your pastel results. I asked and she said that a winter scene could be in the future. Though she did mention that snow is a bit more difficult to do. Because though we think snow is white, in pastels you must mix in blues. Would be fun :)

    Love this study. The photos of your children in amongst the tree branches.

  3. My next sister lives about two hours south of us and for the past four years we've made a tradition of meeting her at an orchard that is about half way between us.

    It is one of our favorite things to do during the year.

    In the past (for my own benefit because I love doing it, I've taken macro photographs of seed interiors - they are so beautiful to me).

    Just today, the girls and I made apple prints and wrote apple verses across the prints. I hope to share them later this week.

  4. I love the idea of using pastels for apples! We have pears and did a pear study when they were ripe. My husband made a story about pears for Spanish too . . . "Una pear es una fruta . . ."

  5. Cool study!
    I have tagged you on my blog.

  6. I love the pastels...they really capture the coloring of an apple. Great study.

  7. Anonymous12.10.10

    Hodgepodgemom has infected us all with dirty fingers! We too had the desire to try the pastels. :) I think the oil ones we have are not the same, I'd like something more chalky. Howe fun to show them picking through the years. This study we noticed the patterns in the flesh when cut, little dots and lines symmetrical to the seeds. Awesome!

  8. You guys are rockin' out at the homeschooling lately! Wow!!! Mine is sorely lacking with the little two month old Noah Bleu demanding all our time.


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