Red Cedar’s fall apple project put students’ hands and minds to work

BRISTOL — This fall, students in grades four through six at the Red Cedar School in Bristol undertook an in-depth and tasty series of hands-on experiments with the school’s apple crop. Every year the students produce about a dozen gallons of cider along with other apple treats such as applesauce and apple crisp with fruit from the school’s orchard and a cider press.
This integrated math and science project began with students picking apples and gathering drops — 1,334 apples from eight trees in all. A series of questions quickly took shape. How many apples on average are needed to press a gallon of cider? Does the color or kind of apple affect this? Does air temperature affect cider production? What is the density and sugar content of cider? Do tree apples produce more cider than drops?
Math and science teacher Brendan Collins led the kids through the hard work of recording all their measurements and experiments, and analyzing their data. Fifth-grader Ruby Hellier commented, “I like that we went outside most days. Then we would come inside and do all the measurements and math.” In the end, they produced 11.5 gallons of cider that weighed 96.16 pounds. They found that on average it took 102.7 apples to produce 1 gallon of cider. Because of the hands-on nature of the project, student Roman McGarvey commented, “I learned to do long division with decimals much faster.”
The students determined that drops and tree apples produced the same quantity of cider. They did not find a correlation between air temperature at time of pressing and the quantity of cider produced, and they determined that the color and type of apple they used from their orchard had no impact on the volume of the cider.
Eliot Heminway summed it up by saying, “I liked the project because it’s hands on and a lot easier to learn that way and we can learn while having fun.” Students presented their findings and served the cider they made to parents at a sharing of learning at the end of the project.
   APPLE CIDER POURS from the Red Cedar School cider press as students make the fall staple drink from apples from the school’s own orchard.
Photos courtesy Red Cedar School

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