Johnny Appleseed:  A Science Twist in 3rd Grade

Johnny Appleseed: A Science Twist in 3rd Grade

Johnny Appleseed Day in 3rd Grade (literacy and science activities)

Several years ago I began using Johnny Appleseed Day, September 26,  as a day to incorporate STEM and Literacy thematically in my classroom.  When I taught 5th, I used lots of tech and STEM activities that went along with our curriculum that the kids LOVED (you can read about those activities here.)  

But now that I am in 3rd, those ideas don't quite fit with the beginning of the year level of my students.  So with a little tweaking, I was able to make this more "user-friendly" for the 8 year olds.  I did this lesson both in person AND over Zoom with distance it can be done literally in any situation you might find yourself this year!  Here is what we did.

We began the day reading Johnny Appleseed by Steven Kellogg.  (my amazon affiliate link) While we were reading, we discussed the genre of legend and tall tale, noting that within the story there were several instances of exaggeration.  We created a chart listing those things we felt might be factual about Johnny's life and those things that were clearly exaggeration.  As with all of the books we are reading nowadays, we cited evidence from the actual text on our chart.  
Creating a chart of facts and exaggerations about Johnny Appleseed using textual evidence.

Next up, the students began to delve into apple traits.  In science, we are discussing characteristics and traits of both plants and animals, so this went along perfectly!  We read Apples by Gail Gibbons (my amazon affiliate link) and then watched the Mystery Science mini lesson about apples and their origins.  It was actually rather fascinating and discussed how there used to be one variety of apple until people started selectively breeding them for more desirable characteristics like taste, appearance, smell, etc.. 

Determining traits of various types of apples using the characteristics that they saw, felt, tasted, and smelled.

So, I broke out three different types of apples (I was able to find yellow apples at the store, so I bought one red, one green, and one yellow for each group.)  Cutting them into slices, and using this recording sheet that I created for them, the students began to observe the different traits of the apples.  They made note of each trait that they were able to distinguish.  They wrote down what the apple smelled like, felt like, tasted like, etc...  I asked them to be as specific as possible.  

If you would like the digital version, you can get it here.

Listing the traits of apples from an apple taste test.

After all of the apples were described (which took quite a while), the students then set upon the task of creating their OWN apples using their specifically desired traits.  I asked them to pretend that they were apple farmers and were going to grow their own apples.  What would they want it to taste like?  How would it smell?  What about the size or appearance?  They listed those traits on the sheets as well.

Writing a descriptive paragraph about the various traits of a made up apple the 3rd grade students created.

Next, the kids wrote a descriptive paragraph about the apple that they created from the traits that they chose.  The paragraphs were to be as detailed as possible and contain specific characteristics from their made-up apples.  You can get the form I used here.  And a digital paper so the kids can type it can be found here.  

Finally, we wrapped it all up with these students creating their own 3D apple featuring the traits they described drawn directly on the apple!  The kids made both the inside and outside of the apples, stapled them together, and stuffed it so that it became a 3D art piece.  We hung them from the ceiling and displayed them alongside the writing and science note-taking page on the board!

Displaying our Johnny Appleseed Day work in 3rd Grade.

All in all, this did take us more than one day to complete.  BUT the kids had a good time, learned something, and left us with an awesome bulletin board.  So I would say this was 100% worth the time and effort!

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