QUINCY -- Kindergarten students at Washington School met Edgewood Orchard owner Jim Zellerman standing in the midst of 3,000 apple trees.
"That's a lot of apples," 6-year-old Taelynn Martin said. "I couldn't eat that all. I could only eat two."
Like most of her classmates, Taelynn never had been to an apple orchard, but now she's seen one with her own eyes -- all without leaving the classroom.
Virtual field trips link students with community locations tied to classroom curriculum.
Using an iPad and the FaceTime app, Washington's speech therapist, Kayla Carpenter, and occupational therapist Janelle Wathen, with help from Zellerman, the students watching in the classroom were introduced to how to pick apples, store them and make them into cider, and were shown some of the equipment used in the orchard.
"I can't literally take the kids to the orchard, so this is the next best thing," Carpenter said. "It's video that's interactive where they can ask questions. It's different than just showing a video of someone that went to the orchard. It's real time. We like that it's local and that it helps build that vocabulary."
The field trips started last year with visits to WGEM's Weather Center, Underbrink's Bakery, the pumpkin patch at Mill Creek Farm, Hy-Vee and Edgewood.
"The community has been really awesome in supporting us in these field trips. It wouldn't be a great learning experience if it wasn't for the community," Carpenter said. "We're always trying to find more people in the community that want to do this, maybe a farm, some other occupation, a restaurant. We always try to make sure it ties to the curriculum, and the teachers report back it does help, it does work. These kids are learning, and that's why we continue doing it this year."
Plans call for more field trips for this year's kindergartners, and discussions have started to expand the trips to first grade.
The goal, Carpenter said, is to offer students sensory experiences to build language and vocabulary skills. The visit to Underbrink's provided "a whole lot of vocabulary they didn't realize they didn't know -- apron, dough, timer, whisk," she said. "They really learned that vocabulary. That was really neat."
Back at the orchard, Carpenter said she and Wathen had lots to show the students. They asked about the different parts of the apple -- the skin, the flesh, the core -- using vocabulary words the students already had heard in class. They talked about the different apple colors, and they talked about the texture, bumpy or smooth, of pumpkins and gourds.
"We have about 12 different varieties that get ripe at different times," Zellerman said of the apples. "We use them to make lots and lots of apple cider. We turn them into apple cider slushies, too."
Zellerman asked students to guess how many apples were in a large bin. After guesses started at two, he told them there were 1,000 apples.
"When we make cider, we use about 15 of these bins of this size," he said.
Kindergarten student Scott Howard learned about apples "getting smashed" to make cider and how apples are picked when ripe, or ready to go.
"My mom buys me apples because I like them," Scott said.
Classmate Heath Carlton, who likes eating apples and drinking apple juice, showed off some of his vocabulary words from visiting the orchard.
"Apples can grow stems. Apples can grow cores. Apples can make apple juice," he said. "Apples make apple pie, but I don't like apple pie."
Classroom lessons already had focused on taste-testing red, yellow and green apples, and basic facts about how apples grow. After the field trip, the students got to taste the orchard's apple cider.
"Not only is it matching our curriculum, it's really just enriching and providing another layer to what we're teaching in the classroom," teacher Tori Campbell said. "The kids are engaged. They're excited about it. When they find something out that's new, you hear them say, 'Wow.' That's what it's for, just for the kids, just another way to give them something."
Students gave a big thank-you to Zellerman for the tour.
"You're welcome," he said. "I hope to see you here at the orchard."