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Food for Thought Lesson Plans

Minnesota Apple Pie

Grade Level

Grades K-2


The following interdisciplinary lesson leads students to discover where apples and other agricultural crops grow in Minnesota and to identify some of the geographical conditions that had to be overcome for apples to grow here. It could be used as part of a thematic lesson on apples. Using a picture book story to introduce the lesson, students will follow the main character as she collects ingredients around the world to make an apple pie, and then embark on a similar trek around Minnesota using maps to discover that we can find all the ingredients here.


Two to three, 15 –20 minute class periods

Background—Agricultural Connections

Our state's geographical location presented challenges to early apple growers. In 1860, Horace Greeley, who urged our new nation to "Go West, Young Man!", also said, "Never move to Minnesota….you can't grow apples there." Our harsh winters and hot summers caused high mortality rates for apple trees and stressed the trees so yields were low. However, through continuing efforts and research by the University of Minnesota and some dedicated apple growers, Minnesota has become a recognized producer of apples and the birthplace of several famous apple varieties, including our state fruit, the Honeycrisp Apple.

Interest Approach - Engagement

Before reading the book, How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World, help students make some personal connections to the text they will hear. Ask students to share their experiences with apples- eating apples and making different foods using apples, such as caramel apples, apple bread, apple bars, applesauce, apple crisp, apple pie.

Part 1
  1. Show students the cover of the book; read the title together. Predict how and why the (girl) baker could "see" the world just by making a pie.
  2. To help students focus on the geographic elements, post or project a world map so everyone can see it. Tell the students, "As the baker visits each country, we will mark it on the map".
  3. On chart paper, make a list of the ingredients the students think will be needed to make an apple pie. (It can be imperfect.) Then, compare the student list with the baker's list on the first page of the story.
  4. Read and enjoy the book together. As the baker visits each country, stop and locate it on the map of the world. Color or mark each stop in some way so that students may later retrace the journey.
  5. After sharing the book, conclude the lesson by retelling the baker's journey using the map as a guide. Talk about bodies of water that were crossed, such as the Atlantic and Indian Oceans and the different continents that were visited as the baker collected her ingredients. Label them on the map as well.
Part 2
  1. Write the title of the book, How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World, on chart paper or the board. Together with students, use the book pictures to retell the events of the story. Review the list of ingredients the baker collected.
  2. On the board, cross out the words "the World" in the book title and substitute the word, "Minnesota". Explain that most of the ingredients needed to make an apple pie are already grown here in Minnesota. (At this time, hand out to each K-2 student, a blank Minnesota map and a Minnesota Crop Puzzle sheet. Ask them to carefully cut each section. Set aside until step 5.
  3. Give each student Map 42- Minnesota Counties Unnamed. Discuss Minnesota's interesting shape and how it "fits" in the United States.
  4. Discuss each of the ingredients and show the map that relates to it. Explain choropleth maps to the students by saying, "when the color is darker on the map, that means there is more (ex. wheat, milk, etc.) than the light color."
  5. Display or ask students to look at the following maps: Wheat in MN Counties 2017 (Map 2), Sugarbeets in MN Counties 2017 (Map 15), Apples in MN Counties (Map 21), Dairy Product Processing Sites in MN (Map 29), and Minnesota Counties (named) (Map 41). Draw attention to the various parts of a map: title, orientation, date, author, legend, and scale (TODALS). On each map, mark a red dot or outline the Minnesota county where your school is located.
  6. Starting with the ingredient flour, which is made from wheat, have students look at Wheat in Minnesota Counties (2017) (Map 2). Describe in general terms where the wheat is grown in Minnesota (Northwestern MN) and record this on the board.
  7. Repeat the instructions detailed in Step 4 for the following: butter/ice-cream (dairy processing sites), sugarbeets, and apples. (As you go through each ingredient, K-2 students will place their Minnesota Crops puzzle pieces on their blank Minnesota map. End the lesson by having students glue the pieces on their map which may then be used as a final assessment.
Part 3
  1. Review where in Minnesota students found the different pie ingredients. Look at the maps again to identify which counties seem to form the core or main concentration of each ingredient. Tell students they will combine all of this information to make their own "Minnesota Apple Pie" map.
  2. Hand out the Minnesota Counties (named) (Map 41) to each student. Students should write a title at the top of the map, such as "Minnesota Apple Pie".
  3. Have students create a map legend for the four main pie ingredients: wheat, sugar, apples, and butter/ ice cream. Assign a color for each ingredient, such as brown for wheat, red for apples, yellow for butter and purple for sugarbeets. (Instruct students to avoid using the color blue because it is reserved to identify water elements on maps). Using the map of Wheat in Minnesota Counties 2017 (Map 2), layer and/or compare with the Minnesota Counties (Map 41), outline and color in the two core counties or top eleven counties for wheat. Have students outline those counties on their own maps, using the color they identified in their legend for wheat.
  4. Repeat the instructions in Step 4 for the remaining three ingredients.
  5. Have students date and sign their maps at the bottom of the page.
  6. Finally, review what was learned about Minnesota and the main parts of a map: title, orientation, author, date, legend, and scale (TODALSS).
Local Flavor
  • Visit a local apple orchard. Drink apple cider. Taste and compare two different varieties of apples. (Be sure to choose two that are easily compared- one that is crisp and tangy, another that is softer and sweet. Combinations might be Wealthy and Honey Crisp)
Enriching Activities

Enrichment ideas for this lesson could include learning more about our pollinators that are so necessary for the blossoms to become apples. Here are quick activity ideas about pollinators:

  • Learn about pollen. Help students understand that it is a special (almost magical) powder that helps the tree make an apple. (Use a large flower such as a lily as a learning prop. Lilies have tall anthers and the pollen shows on the petals and is easily seen.)
  • Learn about flowers. The flowers have two important parts that are both necessary to create the apple. The stamen (anthers and filament), which stand tall and have the pollen particles, and the pistol (the tube the pollen goes down and the ovary). The pollen has to get to the opening of the pollen tube and travel to the ovary for the tree to make an apple. Bees, birds, and butterflies all help move the pollen.
  • Demonstrate the role of pollinators. Using two large (9x12 or larger) pictures of apple blossoms, with Velcro or tape, attach a few small yellow pompoms (pollen) to each picture. Also have a picture or cut- out of a bee (again enlarged and easily seen/held). Using student volunteers, have the "bee" travel from picture to picture transferring the yellow "pollen" back and forth.
  • Additional extensions/learning: Students can find the remainder of the apple blossom on the bottom of the apple. The "fat" part of the blossom under the petals is the part of the blossom that becomes an apple. The apple's purpose is to hold the seeds.
Minnesota Academic Standards
Social Studies - Geography Describe spatial information depicted in simple drawings and pictures. Describe a map and a globe as a representation of space. Identify the physical and human characteristics of places, including real and imagined. Compare physical and human characteristics of a local place and a place far away on a globe or map (such as a place in an equatorial or polar region).

Common Core Connections
Kindergarten Reading: Literature

With prompting and support, ask and answer questions about key details in a text.

With prompting and support, retell familiar stories, including key details.

Actively engage in group reading activities with purpose and understanding.

Grade 1 Reading: Literature

Ask and answer questions about key details in a text.

Describe characters, settings, and major events in a story, using key details.

Use illustrations and details in a story to describe its characters, setting, or events.

Grade 2 Reading: Literature

Ask and answer such questions as who, what, where, when, why, and how to demonstrate understanding of key details in a text.