The Overhanging Apple-Tree

This week, a session we created for a recent demonstration lesson at Chigwell School in Essex. It began as something for young children but has developed into an enquiry that challenges all ages.

In this last month we’ve trained over 450 teachers and worked with over 1100 children. Interested in us coming to your school? Scroll to the bottom to find out more.

The Overhanging Apple Tree

Warm up: There’s a worm in my apple. Does the worm belong to me, or does the apple belong to the worm? Have one side of the class argue from the perspective of the human, and the other arguing from the worm’s!

Stimulus:“Next door’s garden has a big apple tree. It’s so big, some of its branches hang over the fence into my garden. In the autumn, juicy red apples dangle from these branches and are easy for me to reach.”

Question: Are they therefore my apples?

After some discussion, add some twists to the question:

  • What if there are lots more apples on their side of the fence – far more than hanging into my garden?
  • What if the fruit falls naturally onto my lawn?
  • What if I knock them out the tree, onto my lawn, accidentally with my football?
  • What if I knock them out the tree, onto my lawn, on purpose with a football?
  • What if the neighbours are away?

To the children who think the apples don’t belong to you, ask “are the apples trespassing?”

You might be asked what the law says. It’s not really relevant to this philosophical discussion – it’s just one interpretation of right and wrong, and isn’t necessarily right itself. Show you’re not looking for practical suggestions, like “we should just ask the neighbours” by anchoring them back to the original question.

From specific to general

Aim to take the enquiry beyond the story, and let children explore the underlying ideas such as stealing and ownership. This may come from a statement or question that emerges organically, such as a child saying “I think you own the air above your garden” – leading to the question of “can you own air?”

You can also use any of the below too:

  • Is it always stealing to take something without permission?
  • Do we have a duty to give away what we don’t need?
  • Do trees have rights?

Looking for motivating INSET that makes an immediate impact on teaching?

We deliver INSET, demonstration workshops and keynotes all over the world. The last month has seen us work in schools across the UK – from Wiltshire to Northumberland – as well as at conferences in Norway and Denmark. 

We offer something for everyone – whether that be a full or half-day, or our popular “Everything Day” which includes an assembly, demonstration lessons, a parent workshop and twilight INSET. Learn more here:

We’re taking bookings for the remainder of 2023 – just reply to this email to start a conversation, or contact us through the website.

Best wishes,

Tom and Jason

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