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Education Lesson Plans

A Fine Dessert

  • Grade level: 3–5
  • Subject: health education

Time Needed

One 45-minute class period


Students learn a few facts about the history of apples in North America and read an apple pie recipe from a 1773 publication, featured in Dinner in 1773, an online activity within the Fire and Freedom website. The recipe introduces new words that students learn and rewrite in their own words. They then discuss how a dessert like an apple pie may fit into a healthy, balanced meal today. Students are introduced to the image of the USDA’s MyPlate diagram, which illustrates what a balanced meal looks like and consists of. They use the MyPlate diagram to place apple pie first then add other items to create their own MyPlate, i.e., a sample balanced meal.

  • learning outcomes

    Students will be able to:
    • Acquire new vocabulary
    • Identify ingredients in the apple pie recipe from Dinner in 1773
    • Write clear and sequential instructions for making a meal or a dish
    • Describe at least 2 criteria for a balanced meal
    • Create a balanced meal using the MyPlate diagram.
  • Background Information

    The lesson uses an apple pie recipe from a primary source—a 1773 publication—included in the online exhibition Fire and Freedom. From the recipe of a well-known dessert, students are guided to consider how a dessert fits into a healthy, balanced meal. Students learn about the visual representations of five food groups and relative portions illustrated by MyPlate. Teachers are encouraged to explore and review the following websites related to child nutrition and MyPlate for adapting or extending this lesson plan:

  • vocabulary

    The following words from the Apple Pie Recipe may be introduced or incorporated into the class procedures: cloves, design, fair water, mace, marmalade, mince, palate, pare, puff paste, quarter, quince, strain, and syrup

  • materials

    Print All Materials
    • Apple Pie Recipe (PDF, MS Word)
    • Teacher’s Apple Pie Vocabulary List (PDF)
    • Teacher’s Apple Pie Recipe (PDF)
    Other materials and set-ups:
    • A display set-up for class—e.g. interactive whiteboard, a projector, or a white board to display class materials and to record student responses as they share with the class
    • online access to or printouts of the following websites:
  • class 1 procedures

    1. Have students complete the following phrase: “As American as ______ pie.” Tell students that the phrase doesn’t mean that the apple pie comes from America. Display and introduce the following facts about the history of apples in North America:
      • The sour crabapple was the only native apple in North America.
      • Europeans brought a variety of apples to grow in North America in the 1600s.
      • Recipes for apple pie were brought to America by early European settlers.
        [Sources: Apple Facts by the University of Illinois Extension; and American apple pie on Food Timeline FAQs: pie & pastry website.]
    2. Tell students that the class will look at an English apple pie recipe. Display the online interactive Dinner in 1773 and review the activity as a class, calling out the following features:
      • The main image shows 10 dishes for a two-course meal.
      • There are recipes related to the dishes.
      • The drawing and recipes are from a primary source book by Eliza Smith, published in 1773 in London, England.
    3. Call out to students the dish titled “A Butter’d Apple Pie Hot” on the diagram, and then tell students that Eliza Smith’s book included an apple pie recipe. Distribute copies of Apple Pie Recipe to students, and tell them that the recipe is more than 200 years old and contains some unfamiliar words. Ask students to follow along as you read aloud the recipe, while circling any unfamiliar words on their handouts.
    4. Display the recipe and have students identify unfamiliar words and define them as a class. See Teacher’s Apple Pie Vocabulary List as reference.
    5. Ask students to work in pairs to list ingredients and instructions in their own words, using the table on the bottom of their Apple Pie Recipe handouts. Review the lists as a class and allow students to make any corrections and hand in their revised handouts.
    6. Tell students that apple pie continues to be a fine dessert, although today’s meals often have fewer than 10 dishes. Ask students how an apple pie dessert may fit into a healthy, balanced meal. Guide the class discussion to identify some criteria for a healthy, balanced meal—e.g., appropriate portion size, minimizing added sugar.
    7. Display the MyPlate image online and tell students that the image shows what a balanced meal looks like on a plate. Review the image as a class and introduce the following key concepts from MyPlate:
      • A balanced meal includes food from five different groups.
      • Vegetables and grains make up the largest portion on the plate.
      • Fruits and vegetables make up half the plate.
      • Dairy has the smallest portion among the 5 food groups.
    8. Have students copy and draw a MyPlate image on a blank paper. Talk about apple pie’s main ingredients being apples and pastry, then note “apple pie” under the Fruit and Grain areas on the diagram.
    9. Tell students to add items to their MyPlate diagrams and to illustrate a balanced dinner plate/meal. Explain that students are to add items under food category on their MyPlate diagram. Allow students time to complete the task, then collect their work for assessment.
    10. Class 1 Evaluation: Teachers evaluate students’ understanding and learning progress through class discussions, partner activity, and student works collected during the class.
  • extension activities

    1. With a partner, fifth grade students compare and contrast the Dinner in 1773 apple pie recipe and a typical modern apple pie recipe. How do the ingredients differ? How do the instructions differ? Is the amount of labor required different? When during the year can we enjoy apple pie? Would that have been the same in 1773? Ask students to create a chart or Venn-diagram with the comparisons.
    2. Students work in groups of three to five in order to create a lunch menu for their school using their completed MyPlate meals at the end of Class 1. Optionally, host a luncheon with parents, during which students present what makes the lunch a healthy and balanced meal.
    3. Students research the Johnny Appleseed legend and the real life of John Chapman, and compare them. They then write an article for a school paper, where the article answers the following four questions: Which is more entertaining? Which is more instructive? Why might Chapman’s exploits have led to the legend? And what does the legend tell us about our country?
  • common core standards

    • Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
    • Determine the main ideas and supporting details of a text read aloud or information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
    • Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.
    • Report on a topic or text or present an opinion, sequencing ideas logically and using appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details to support main ideas or themes; speak clearly at an understandable pace.