Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix
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Digging Into Nutrients
6 - 8
Two, 40-minute sessions
In this lesson, students will gain background knowledge of the nutrient requirements of plants, how those nutrients are obtained by the plant, what farmers must do if the nutrients are not available in soils, and current issues related to agricultural production.
For each group:
- Why Must We Replace Nutrients Back Into the Soil? reading handout #1
- Crop Rotation, Green Manure, and Nitrogen- Fixing Plants reading handout #2
- Manure and Composting reading handout #3
- Fertilizers reading handout #4
For each student:
- What’s in a Plant? reading handout
- Digging Into Nutrients student notes
Essential Files (maps, charts, pictures, or documents)
- What's in a Plant student handout
- Student Reading Handouts 1, 2, 3, and 4
- Digging Into Nutrients student notes
nutrient: a substance that provides nourishment essential for growth and maintenance of life
Background Agricultural Connections
Interest Approach – Engagement
- Assess the prior knowledge of your students and stimulate thinking by asking the following questions:
- "What process does a plant use to convert energy from the sun into a useable form of energy for plant growth?"
- "Why and how are nutrients replaced in soil where plants are grown?"
- "What organic and inorganic nutrients (fertilizers) are used for plant growth?"
- Tell students that they will be reading about plants, the nutrients they need to grow, and how they obtain them. Students will identify the main points of an assigned reading and share that information with other students.
- Distribute the What’s in a Plant? reading and Digging Into Nutrients student notes to each student. Instruct the class to silently read What’s in a Plant?
- As a class, identify five key points from the What’s in a Plant? reading and instruct each student to record these key points in the appropriate place on their worksheet. Explain that students should follow this procedure for reading and writing key points for the next step of the lesson.
- Divide students into groups of four. Pass out one packet of reading materials to each group. Each packet should contain one copy of the following readings:
- Reading #1: Why Must We Replace Nutrients Back Into the Soil?
- Reading #2: Crop Rotation, Green Manures, and Nitrogen-Fixing Plants
- Reading #3: Manure and Composting
- Reading #4: Fertilizers
- Use the “jigsaw” cooperative learning approach for the readings.
- Once in groups of four, have students number themselves 1, 2, 3,
- Student number one will read Reading #1; student number two will read Reading #2 and so forth.
- After students have finished reading the material, like numbers will meet and discuss what they have read, becoming experts on their readings. Each group of experts will record five key points about their reading on their Digging into Nutrients worksheet.
- Students will meet back with their original groups where each expert will explain to the rest of the group the general idea of his/her reading and some important key points. The rest of the team will take appropriate notes on their Digging into Nutrients worksheet.
- Each student should end up with five different sets of key points about plants (the one completed as a class and the four they completed as a group).
- Have a class discussion and ask students to provide examples of how they can use these key points about plant nutrients in their lives. Ideas include: establish a home garden and teach their family or neighbor about plant nutrients, start a compost bin, or start a school garden and teach younger students about plant nutrients.
Concept Elaboration and Evaluation:
After conducting these activities, review and summarize the following key points:
- We all depend on plants for survival. All the food we eat and the oxygen we breath can be traced back to plants.
- Plants convert convert energy from the sun using the process called photosynthesis.
- Plants grow in the soil. Soil must be managed and conserved to maintain the nutrients it needs to grow healthy plants.
- Crop rotation, composting, organic fertilizers, and inorganic fertilizers are all methods used to preserve and maintain soil nutrients.
- After like numbered students have finished reading and discussing their article, have them design a poster that they will use to report back to the entire class at the conclusion of this activity.
- This lesson employs group work that incorporates opportunities for students to exchange, write, present ideas, and ask questions.
- Have students quickly scan articles for new words they’d like to have defined prior to reading. These words could be added to a classroom word wall or to student science journals.
We welcome your feedback! Please take a minute to tell us how to make this lesson better or to give us a few gold stars!
Invite a farmer to explain to your class how plants in the field get their required nutrients. Your local county Farm Bureau may have some names of farmers who are using different fertilizer techniques. Master Gardeners, contacted through the University Cooperative Extension, may also be willing to speak on this topic.
Suggested Companion Resources
- Troubled Waters (Activity)
- Soil! Get the Inside Scoop (Book)
- Topsoil Tour (Kit)
- 'Sorption Virtual Lab (Multimedia)
- Phosphate Mining Video (Multimedia)
- Photosynthesis video (Multimedia)
- Potash Mining Video (Multimedia)
- The Chloroplast video (Multimedia)
- The Real Reason Leaves Change Color in the Fall (Multimedia)
- Soil Health Education Resources (Website)
- Soil Science Society of America (Website)
- Unlock the Secrets in the Soil (Website)
State Standards for Utah
Grade 7: SEEd Strand 7.3Structure and Function of Life
7.3.1Plan and carry out an investigation that provides evidence that the basic structures of living things are cells. Emphasize that cells can form single-celled or multicellular organisms and that multicellular organisms are made of different types of cells.
Grade 8: SEEd Strand 8.3Life systems store and transfer matter and energy
8.3.1Plan and conduct an investigation and use the evidence to construct an explanation of how photosynthetic organisms use energy to transform matter. Emphasize molecular and energy transformations during photosynthesis.
Agricultural Literacy Outcomes
Agriculture and the Environment
- Discover how natural resources are used and conserved in agriculture (e.g., soil conservation, water conservation, water quality, and air quality) (T1.6-8.c)
Common Core Connections
Reading: Anchor Standards
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.2Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.4Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.
Speaking and Listening: Anchor Standards
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.1Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.2Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
Language: Anchor Standards
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.1Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.4Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases by using context clues, analyzing meaningful word parts, and consulting general and specialized reference materials, as appropriate.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.5Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.6Acquire and use accurately a range of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when encountering an unknown term important to comprehension or expression.
Plant Science Systems Career Pathway
PS.01.02Prepare and manage growing media for use in plant systems.
PS.01.03Develop and implement a fertilization plan for specific plants or crops.
PS.02.03Apply knowledge of plant physiology and energy conversion to plant systems.
PS.03.02Develop and implement a management plan for plant production.
HS-LS1 From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes
HS-LS1-5Use a model to illustrate how photosynthesis transforms light energy into stored chemical energy.
HS-LS2 Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
HS-LS2-5Develop a model to illustrate the role of photosynthesis and cellular respiration in the cycling of carbon among the biosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere, and geosphere.
MS-ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
MS-ESS3-3Apply scientific principles to design a method for monitoring and minimizing a human impact on the environment.
MS-LS1 From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes
MS-LS1-1Conduct an investigation to provide evidence that living things are made of cells; either one cell or many different numbers and types of cells.
MS-LS1-6Construct a scientific explanation based on evidence for the role of photosynthesis in the cycling of matter and flow of energy into and out of organisms.
MS-LS2 Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics