I launched a new lesson simply titled “Cranberries” this Thanksgiving season and am so grateful a few teachers said, ‘Come to my classroom’. Ag in the Classroom work, although considered part-time, is truly a full-time passion. I thoroughly enjoy sharing tidbits about the amazing variety of food and farms found in these United States; something for which we can truly be grateful any time of the year. As you pass the cranberries around your Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner table, wow your guests with these interesting facts about this native North American fruit.
- Early Americans gave cranberries their name. The pink cranberry blossom hangs in such a manner that reminds one of the head of a crane, leading to the term ‘craneberry’. Now we say, cranberry.
- Cranberries actually grow on vines and are not submerged all the time, as might be assumed because of all those beautiful pictures of cranberry bogs. Instead the marshes are flooded just twice a year – once in the winter to protect the fruit from the cold and again during harvest.
- Wisconsin, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington are the five top cranberry producing states.
*These fun facts come from Wisconsin Ag in the Classroom.
I also found this great video: “How Does It Grow? Cranberries” to supplement the lesson. This actually part of an entire series that is really, really good for use in the classroom. (AND as a bonus, there’s a great tutorial for a very simple cranberry sauce at the very end of the video.)
While I find reading and learning fun, students usually relish the idea of an AITC activity because normally, I break all the rules of the classroom. OOppss! For this lesson, I brought in the Cranberry Bounce Test, courtesy of Illinois Ag in the Classroom.
The story goes that New Jersey cranberry grower, John “Peg Leg” Webb was carrying a basket of cranberries. The berries were stored in a basement or root cellar of his barn. He tripped, dumping the basket and sending the berries down the steps. The freshest berries bounced all the way down to the floor. The damaged or rotten berries were left on the steps. Thus the bounce board separators used in cranberry processing plants today.
To execute the cranberry bounce test, give each student or groups of students 10 fresh cranberries. Ask them to observe the color, shape and firmness of each berry, recording their findings on a blank sheet of paper.
Now, for the fun. Ask the students to gently drop each berry from the same height and observe its ability to bounce. Some of these berries get some height! Others fall terribly flat. After each berry has been bounced, share the results and decide what characteristics bouncy cranberries share.
This has all the makings for fun in the classroom OR after Thanksgiving dinner.