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Apples in NYS

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Apple Orchards now and in the future, how climate change will affect the trees in New York State

Emily A. Thurston, Clarkson University, Potsdam NY

May 2011


Type:  Activity

Length:  2 – 45 minute class periods

Content Area/Course: Earth science, Environmental science, Biology

Targeted Grade Level:  9-10 (Can be adapted to older high school students if the teacher provides the data sources and requires the students to retrieve their own data)

Prerequisite Knowledge: Global climate change information and how the changing climate is impacting our weather systems such as temperature and precipitation

Prerequisite Skills: Basic computer and reasoning skills; basic to moderate Excel skills

Technology/web resources: Internet access (optional), Adobe Reader (ability to read pdf files)

Thinking skill development: Comprehension, simple synthesis, evaluation

NASA resources used: none as written.


Students design their own apple orchard for the year 2050 using knowledge of climate change and how that will affect apple tree growth in New York State. Students chose one of the three regions that are well known for growing apples: Hudson Valley, Champlain Valley, and southern shore of Lake Ontario. Growing season and hardiness zone concepts, as well as data and graphs for New York States’ temperature and hardiness zones (past, current data and a modeled prediction for the future) are analyzed. Using the data provided and their understanding of climate changes, students design an orchard with apple varieties suitable to the future climate in the selected region. Activity options include the use of MS Excel to reinforce skills such as graphing data, and interpreting graphs and charts based on knowledge of the changing climate.

Encompassing Question for Students: What is the future for apples production in New York State? Will the apple growing regions and types of apples grown change?