The Apple Project

A Project by Kindergarten Students at Hong Kong International School in Hong Kong

Length of project: 2 weeks
Teachers:  Mary Jane Elliott, Carol Young, Bonnie Draheim

Phase One—Beginning the Project

At Hong Kong International School it is a "tradition" to start the kindergarten year with each child bringing an apple to school on the first day and then using it in activities planned by the teacher. The past several years I have taken this opportunity to use the apples to introduce the class to project work. "Me opening discussion centered on experiences the children had with apples, e.g. picking apples at Grandma's or buying apples at roadside stands. The children carefully observed the apples, smelling, touching and tasting them. Using oil pastels, each child then selected an apple and made a representational drawing of it. As Phase I drew to a close, the children participated in a brainstorming session and listed all the ideas they had about what they wanted to learn about or do with apples.

Phase Two—Developing the Project

Whole class, small group or individual investigations began based on the questions from the brainstormed list. Children experimented and attempted to solve problems. Four different techniques were tried to make apple juice before there was any sign of success. Each new attempt reflected what the children had learned from the previous experiment. Thoughtful discussions also took place as the children tried to figure out what the stickers on the apples meant. They were satisfied with their interpretations. A bowling game was developed with the apples. Recycled juice cans were gathered to serve as bowling pins and the biggest roundest yellow apple was selected to be the bowling ball. This apple was badly bruised and the skin torn during this experiment. Afterwards it was placed on the display table and later played a key role in the development of this project. 'Me class decided to bake an apple cake and were confident that they knew how to do it! Together they made a long list of ingredients. When preparing the batter, the group discussed each ingredient and decided how much to put in. ('They seemed to make this cake by "feel just like Grandma did!) When the children tasted the cake, they were thrilled with their creation in.

Phase Three—Concluding the Project

After the majority of the initial questions and ideas on the brainstormed list had been completed, and the supply of apples was almost depleted I had the children revisit the display table to reflect on the investigations and talk about what they had learned. In the process, one child picked up the "bowling ball" apple which was beginning to rot and decay. Underneath he discovered a worm and some small "brownish" looking things, which resulted in an incredibly powerful conversation as the class tried to make sense out of what they were observing. The end result was that the apple and worm were put into ajar which turned out to be the beginnings of a fruit fly farm. Instead of the project culminating, a Phase IV started.

Comments

The display illustrates the thought processes of young children and their approach to solving real problems. Descriptive conversations revealed the amazing wealth of knowledge children have. Snatches of dialogue uncovered how well children converse with each other when the "talk" is relevant. Examples highlight problems solved on an individual basis as well as in a group setting. Different strategies for solving problems are also noted. The success rate for solving problems in project work is very high because children are extremely interested in finding solutions to their own questions. The rare event of a fourth phase initiated in this project is noteworthy. Project work is never really complete, but in this case, the next phase was evident. The introductory conversation for this fourth phase was a classic example of the way children think and interpret the world in which they live.

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Project Summaries

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