An Apple for the Science Fair
Apples are perennial favorites for pies, but how about for science experiments? Absolutely! From chemistry to food science and beyond, apples are the perfect vehicles for scientific exploration.
Crunchy fresh apples, apple pie, apple cider... can't you just smell these delicious reminders of fall? Over the last two weeks, friends and family from California to Virginia have been telling me about their apple-picking adventures in local orchards. That must mean it is the perfect time for... apple-related science experiments!
Here are a few apple-oriented hands-on science project ideas, ripe for the picking:
- A Juicy Project: Extracting Apple Juice with Pectinase: Discover the power of enzymes with this simple experiment. How much does the addition of an enzyme speed up the release of juice from apples? Do different types or ages of apples react differently? Why? Budding scientists can easily expand this project to include other fruits or enzymes.
- Yuck, What Happened to My Apple? How Food Wrappings Affect Spoilage: Want to save half your apple for later? How you store it can make a big difference in how fresh it looks a few hours later! In this project, students investigate which type of wrapping will keep sliced apples placed in the fridge the freshest and least spoiled.
- One Bad Apple Spoils the Whole Bunch: An Experiment on the Plant Hormone Ethylene: Do you know what causes fruits to ripen? What exactly does "ripen" mean? Here's a hint: we often know a fruit isn't ripe because our mouths involuntarily pucker up! Explore the chemistry behind the ripening process with this Project Idea.
- Polymer Permeability: Which Plastic Wrap Prevents Oxidation Best?: A cut apple quickly turns brown, which means that they are perfect for testing the gas permeability of plastic wrap. Test different types of plastic wrap (they aren't all the same!) and even try stretching plastic wrap thinner. What allows the most or least oxygen to pass through and why is that important?
- Gone With the Wind: An Experiment on Seed and Fruit Dispersal:
In this hands-on project, you observe the seeds of various plants, build your own models, and then use a fan to simulate how the wind carries seeds. What shapes travel the best? What does this mean for the survival of a plant species?
Fall into Science
Any time of the year is a great time for scientific exploration, but fall certainly offers some fun opportunities. Ask kids about changing leaf colors, cooling weather, or "pumpkin guts." And don't forget the apples!
For a more advanced look at science questions and science news related to pests that continue to cause problems for the apple (and oranges) industry, see: "Citrus Science Crisis: From Fruitful to Fruitfall."