John Chapman (aka Johnny Appleseed) was very big in our house a few months ago. Every year the students at our little school read biographies about a person of their choice and present written and oral reports, dressed up as said person. After several years of dead presidents, I was finally able to steer Christopher in a different direction, and we ate, breathed and slept good old Johnny for a while!
Things we can be reasonably certain of:
- John Chapman was a real person, born September 26, 1774
- As a teen, he apprenticed to a tree farmer.
- As an adult, he planted apple trees in NY, PA, OH, MI, IN, WV, Ontario, and IL. Some of the trees he planted still exist in Ohio!
- He was deeply religious, a missionary of The New Church.
- Conservation and simplicity were very important to him.
Some traditional parts of the legend, such as Chapman wearing a tin pot as a hat, are fun but...probably not true. While he is mentioned in numerous letters written by pioneers he met, none of them ever said anything about the tin pot hat - or the pet wolf - or numerous other things that you or I would certainly find worth mentioning!
- How do rumors get started? Remember the game of telephone from a few days ago? Can you find other stories from history that may have had a kernel of truth, but which are mostly made up? (Prime example: George Washington, who was indeed known for his honesty, never chopped down that cherry tree.) Discuss how this happens in daily life - people want to tell a story just a little more exciting than the last person's...for older children, this might develop into a discussion about the nightly news!
- While John Chapman was a real person, tales of Johnny Appleseed are often considered Tall Tales or Folk Tales. Search your library for books about Paul Bunyan, Pecos Bill, Mike Fink, and Davy Crockett (another real person with some...embellishments put on his life). Discuss what 'truths' might be behind the wild tales.
* Create a chart comparing all the tall tales you found, with categories such as:
- Male or female character?
- Region they lived/were spotted in?
- Special abilities?
* Apples are a bit big to make practical manipulative, but you can substitute red and green circle stickers, pom-poms, or dot markers (like Bingo daubers) for adding and subtracting or pattern practice.
* Use real apples or paper outlines to practice fractions.
Chapman traveled through many different states, planting apple orchards which he later sold (not, as some legends would have us believe, randomly strewing apple seeds). Print out a map of the northeastern United States, and use the above books or the internet to mark where he traveled, where his orchards were, and where some of his trees still exist today.
Soooo many apple recipes to choose from! Apple pie? Apple turnovers? Apple butter? Apple cake? How about...
Apples in Pajamas
1. Peel, core and slice 4 Granny Smith apples into thick rings.
2. In a bowl, whisk 2/3 cup flour, a pinch of salt, 2 eggs, 1 T oil, 1/3 cup milk.
3. Heat about 1/2 inch oil in skillet.
4. Dip apple slices in batter, then fry in oil until brown on both sides. Place on paper towels to absorb oil. Dust with a cinnamon sugar mix.
Great warm for breakfast (what? They have apples, of course they are good for you) or with ice cream on top as a dessert!
* Well, of course we need to plant a tree! One advantage to celebrating this holiday in Spring vs. Fall is that Spring is a better time to plant trees - as soon as you know the ground has thawed and will likely stay that way. Find out what varieties of apple tree will do best in your area, and which flavors you prefer (I'm definitely a Honeycrisp gal!) (Ooh, more chart making! Or voting!) Make sure you plant more than one, so they can cross-pollinate.
* What do our new trees need to do well? Why do we have to dig such a big hole? How long does it take a tree to start producing?
* Explore the life cycle of an apple tree, from seed to apple. DLTK has two versions of printable books here. (And if you don't have that site bookmarked, do it now!)
Are you the apple of someone's eye? Um...is that a good thing or a bad thing? Make a list of expressions with the word "apple" in them, and pick one to write at the top of a paper, lengthwise. On one side, draw the expression's literal meaning, then on the right side draw what people really mean when they say it.
Way up high in an apple tree (hands up like tree branches)
Two red apples smiled down at me (two fists).
I shook that tree as hard as I could (shake tree).
Down came the apples! (apples fall down) Mmmmmm they were good! (rub belly)
Other Web Sites to Explore
http://americanfolklore.net/folklore/tall-tales/ (parental discretion advised on a few of them)