“A is for Apple”: a common theme in preschool. One way to explore this concept is, perhaps, through worksheets, tracing the letter “A”, cutting out and gluing construction paper apples. These activities would, indeed, offer opportunity to develop fine motor skills. However, they do very little to explore the concept of “apple.”
In a play-based program, we certainly talk about the fact that apple starts with “A”, that the letter A makes certain sounds. (Though the letter A becomes much more exciting when a child in the class connects that her name starts with an A!) And then we delve into all things apple!
This year, it started with a field trip to a local apple orchard, Machado’s.
Children hiked through the orchards…
tasted a variety of apples (and pears and peaches, too)…
watched mesmerized as a huge machine cored and peeled several apples at once…
and delighted in the smells of fresh baked apple (and pumpkin and berry and peach…) pies.
Back in the classroom, we set up an apple tasting station, in which children sampled three different apple varieties and recorded their favorites on a chart.
(Our discerning panel of taste-testers!)
At the art table, we put cut apples in paint for print-making.
In the dramatic play area, children set up an apple stand, selling “apples” made from balled-up pieces of grocery bags and tape.
The next day, children set to work peeling, coring, and dicing apples for a batch of applesauce.
(Can’t let those nice peels go to waste!)
At the art table, we covered the table with paper, squirted tempera paint on the paper, and explored how well apples roll! The laughter and shouts of delight that ensued made cleaning endless trails of paint off the floor entirely worth it.)
Letter recognition and phonemic awareness are, indeed, very important concepts to introduce in the early childhood classroom. Yet the concept of “apple” covered so many different curriculum and developmental areas: math concepts of counting and graphing; concepts of print-making and color-mixing; scientific inquiry skills of observation (as they observed the change of an apple as it turns into applesauce, investigation (as they investigated the physics of an apple rolling through paint at high speeds), and exploration (as they used all their senses to explore the qualities of an apple); and social-emotional skills of collaboration and communication, not only in their apple store dramatic play, but also as they coordinated the catch and release of all those fast-rolling apples!
Our goal is that by providing a wide variety of open-ended, hands-on activities, we will engage children’s natural curiosity, inquisitiveness, and creativity. These activities are meant to offer children the opportunity to explore the world around them, to interact, to try new things. Furthermore, varied, open-ended activities will meet the needs of our diverse group of learners, with different learning styles and at different stages of development. And, most importantly, our goal is that we create activities that allow children to have fun!!