An apple tree may live for more than one hundred years, but a mature tree revisits the same seasonal cycle year after year. In summer tiny buds appear on the branches. The buds develop and grow a protective covering in the fall. During the winter the buds are dormant, protected from the cold by a fuzzy coat. In the spring buds explode into green leaves and little flower buds appear. Insects pollinate the apples flowers, which give way to developing apples. Every apple contains seeds that can begin the process again. Use the poster to reinforce these concepts.

chart paper and pencil
apple seeds
craft paper
markers, crayons
tempera paint (green and yellow)
tissue paper (pink)
green and red construction paper

Teaching the Lesson

Invite children to share what they know about the human life cycle. Record their comments and draw simple pictures (or cut from a magazine) to represent each stage, from infancy to old age.
Explain that trees have life cycles too. Ask: "What do you think the first stage of an apple tree's life cycle is?" Show children an apple seed. Explain that apple trees grow from apple seeds. Invite children to squat and pretend to grow tall like a tree, reaching their hands like branches up to the sky. Explain that once a tree is mature, it begins to grow fruit.
Use a black marker to draw four identical tree trunks on four pieces of craft paper. Label them Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall. Divide children into four life-cycle groups and give each group a tree trunk. Ask: "What changes do you think happen to an apple tree in each season?" Review changes to an apple tree in each season. Have children in each group color in the trunks and then decorate the trees to represent each part of the life cycle. Suggestions follow.
  Winter: Use black marker and brown crayons to extend the trunk into bare branches. Paint branches with watered-down mixture of water and white glue to create a frosty, wintry look.
  Spring: Dip an index finger in green tempera paint and make tiny leaf buds on the branches. When the paint dries, pinch pink tissue paper to make blossoms. Glue blossoms to the tree.
  Summer: Dip hands in green tempera paint and make handprints on the branches to represent broad summer leaves. Cut out small green apples and glue them to the tree.
  Fall: Dip hands in yellow tempera paint and create handprints to represent changing autumn leaves. When the paint dries, cut out and glue on apples from red construction paper.
Have students in each group work together to write informative captions to go with the tree. Display trees and captions in the hall outside your classroom.
Learn more about the life cycle of an apple tree with The Seasons of Arnold's Apple Tree by Gail Gibbons (Harcourt Brace & Co., 1984). As you share the book, invite children to notice similarities between their tree murals and Arnold's apple tree.
Give children a close-up look at the first stages of an apple tree's life cycle by sprouting apple seeds in the classroom. Ask students to save seeds from apples they eat. Give each child a few apple seeds, a resealable plastic bag (use a permanent marker to write each child's name on the bag), and a paper towel. Demonstrate the following steps as children follow along with their materials.
  Moisten the paper towel with water.
  Fold the paper towel in half and place it inside the plastic bag.
  Place the apple seeds inside the bag on top of the paper towel. Close the bag partway — leaving an opening so that air can circulate inside. Lay the bag on a tray. (Bags may be stacked if necessary.)
Place the tray in a refrigerator for six weeks. (The refrigerator time simulates the long, cold winter all apples need to grow.) Bring out the trays at regular intervals and let children use hand lenses to examine the seeds through the plastic bags. (Do not remove the seeds from the bag.) Spritz the paper towels with water to keep the paper towels moist but not soggy. As the seeds begin to germinate, tiny roots and little shoots will appear. Plant the sprouts one-inch deep in paper cups filled with potting soil. Write children's names on their cups and place in a sunny spot. Have children keep the soil in their cups moist. Cover the cups loosely with plastic wrap to retain moisture and help seedlings survive over weekends.