Target Grade Level / Age Range:

5 th Grade


Four 40-minute class periods     

Virtual Learning:

Use this document to convert the lesson into a virtual learning module for your students. Use the steps outlined to create the different elements of a Google Classroom or other online learning platform. You can also send the steps directly to students in a PDF, present them in a virtual meeting, or plug them into any other virtual learning module system.


Students will learn and identify factors that go into producing an apple. They will learn how an apple grows throughout each season and how each season is important for apple production.


  • Computer
  • Paper
  • Pencil

Suggested Companion Resources (books and websites)

Vocabulary (with definitions)

  • Pollinate: convey pollen to or deposit pollen on (a stigma, ovule, flower, or plant) and so allow fertilization.
  • Irrigation: the supply of water to land or crops to help growth, typically by means of channels.
  • Pruning: trimming a tree, shrub, or bush by cutting away dead or overgrown branches or stems, especially to increase fruitfulness and growth.
  • Compost: decayed organic material used as a plant fertilizer.
  • Nutrients: a substance that provides nourishment essential for growth and the maintenance of life.
  • Fertilizer: a chemical or natural substance added to soil or land to increase the nutrient level to help its ability to grow plants.
  • Nitrogen: One of the key nutrients a plant needs to grow.
  • Phosphorus: One of the key nutrients a plant needs to grow.
  • Potassium: One of the key nutrients a plant needs to grow.

Background – Agricultural Connections

Each season is vital to growing apples. During the winter season, the apple trees have buds on their branches. Some of these buds contain leaves and others contain five flowers. During the winter, these buds are dormant and rest until spring. When warmer weather comes in with the spring season, the leaf buds unfold and the flower buds begin to grow on the ends of the twigs. During the spring season pollination occurs for apple trees.

Most apple varieties have flowers that contain male and female parts and are self-pollinating. These trees will produce fruit without cross pollination. However, many varieties are self-infertile and require a pollinator. Apples can be pollinated by bees and insects or by pollen that floats in the wind. Honeybees are attracted to the apple flowers by the nectar and the scent of the petals. As the bee collects nectar, it also picks up pollen. When the bee lands on another flower on a different tree it pollinates it by brushing up against the pistil of the flower, leaving the pollen grains on the sticky stigma. The pollen then gets sent down through the styles to reach the ovary (this is where pollination occurs). Through the filament the sperm present in the pollen can reach the ovules that are in the ovary. The fertilized ovules will become seeds. From there the seed begins to grow. The outer wall of the ovary develops into the fleshy white part of the apple. The inner wall of the ovary becomes the apple core around the seed.

In the summer, the apples grow bigger and gradually change colors as they develop. During the summer months, the orchard will require mowing, multiple pesticide applications, and fruit thinning.  In the fall the apples ripen, and that is when they are ready to be harvested. Most apples are harvested by hand, primarily in September and October.

Interest Approach or Motivator

Read the book, How Do Apples Grow?


  1. Using a KWL chart, survey students to see what they already know and what they want to know about the growing of apples and apple orchards.
  2. Have the students watch the following virtual tour of an apple orchard located in Colorado. Share the link with your students so they can watch it multiple times to get their information that is needed to complete the following activity.
  3. Students will then work in pairs to create an outline of the video highlighting all the main points. Then assign student pairs to use either COMIC LIFE or Storybird (Online comic book/storytelling tool for teachers and students) to recreate the story of apple production in their own voice. They can do additional research to clarify main points or add additional information to their story. This is to help students show their understanding of apple orchards and all the production that goes into it. (If your school is not one-to-one or your classroom does not have access to computers you can always substitute the online storybook tool with having students outline the apple orchard process by creating a poster).
  4. Allow a few class periods for the students to gather their information and create their story. Share the link of the video with students so they may watch it multiple times to create their outline and story.
  5. After students have completed their story, have students share their story with others in the class.
  6. Complete KWL chart of what they l earned.

Essential Files (maps, charts, pictures, or documents)

Did you know? (Ag facts)

  • Thinning spring apple buds helps with consistent healthy apple crops each season.
  • Alfalfa is used as green manure (organic compost) to improve soil fertility and structure.
  • Phosphorus naturally occurs in the soil of Rocky Mountains.
  • Potassium-finished compost is created by applying a lot of wood and other organic materials high in potassium.
  • Nitrogen promotes leaf growth, phosphorus promotes root growth, and potassium promotes flower and fruit growth
  • It takes 3-4 years for apple trees to grow without producing fruit, 4 years to produce a small crop of apples and 6 years for fully producing apple trees.
  • Apple facts: they are high in Vitamin C, high in fiber, helps lower cholesterol, helps lower the risk of heart disease, they are high in quercetin which increases endurance and oxygen consumption.
  • Apples are around 70 calories.

Extension Activities

  • Visit an apple orchard for a field trip
  • Explore how apples are turned into apple cider, apple juice, or other apple products.



Hannah Pagel and Rondee Troester

Organization Affiliations

Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation

Clayton Ridge Middle School, Garnavillo

National Agriculture Literacy Outcomes

  • T2.3-5.e. Understand the concept of stewardship and identify ways farmers/ranchers care for soil, water, plants, and animals.

Iowa Core Standards

  • 5-ESS3-1. Obtain and combine information about ways individual communities use science ideas to protect the Earth’s resources and environment.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.