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In this lesson students will use the story The Little Red Hen to learn about wheat production and bread making. Students will thresh their own wheat and grind it into flour to make bread.
chaff: the debris that is separated from the seed when grain is threshed
combine: a machine that cuts crops (such as corn or wheat) and separates the seeds of the plant from the rest of the plant
forage: grasses and other plants that are eaten by animals (such as livestock)
thresh: to separate the seeds of crops like wheat, corn, or dry beans from the plant
wheat: a widely cultivated grain that grows in tight clusters on tall stalks and which is typically ground into flour to be used in breads, baked goods, and pasta
winnow: to remove (the unwanted coverings of seeds) from grain using a current of air
Wheat is a type of grain. It is useful as a livestock feed, but most wheat is used as human food. It is nutritious, easily stored and transported, and easily processed into a variety of foods. Unlike any other plant-derived food, wheat contains gluten protein that causes leavened dough to rise, forming very small gas cells that hold carbon dioxide during fermentation. This gluten and fermentation process produces light-textured bread. Bread and other wheat products are high in carbohydrates and contain valuable protein, minerals, and vitamins.
Types of wheat are grouped based on the season in which they are planted and whether their grain is hard or soft, red or white.The five major types of wheat grown in the United States are: hard red winter, hard red spring, soft red winter, white, and durum. Hard-red winter wheat and hard-red spring wheat are the most popular types of wheat in the United States. This wheat is ground into flour that is used for making bread. Another class of wheat, durum wheat, is used in macaroni, spaghetti, and other pasta products. Soft-red winter and soft-white wheats are grown in the eastern part of the United States. These types of wheat have less protein. They are used to make flour for cakes, biscuits, pastries, and other breakfast foods.
To prepare the soil for planting wheat, a farmer drives a tractor that pulls a plow through the fields. The plow turns the soil over and kills the weeds. A disk harrow is then connected to the tractor. The disk harrow breaks the soil down into smaller pieces. When the soil is ready for planting, the farmer uses a grain drill to plant the wheat seeds.
Spring wheat is planted in April or May and harvested in August or September. Winter wheat is planted in August, September, or October. It begins to grow, goes dormant in the winter, and then continues to grow once the snow melts and the soil warms in the spring. Winter wheat is harvested in May, June, and July.
The wheat we eat comes from the seeds of the wheat plant. To harvest the seeds, the wheat must be cut, threshed, and winnowed. A large machine, called a combine, is used to cut the wheat plant and separate the seeds (the grain) from the stem and the protective outer hull. The action of shaking the seeds loose is called threshing. Winnowing separates the seeds from the rest of the plant. The grain is collected, and the rest of the plant, referred to as the chaff, is used for animal bedding or forage. A combine is a very expensive piece of equipment, so many wheat farmers hire a custom harvester. Custom harvesters take their combines across the country during the wheat harvest, going from farm to farm cutting wheat.
Once the wheat seeds are harvested, they are loaded into trucks and driven to grain elevators where they are weighed, tested, and stored. The wheat seeds are then transported to a mill to be ground into flour.
Activity 1: Story of the Little Red Hen
Activity 2: Growing Wheat
Activity 3: From Wheat to Bread
Activity 4: It Takes a Team
Concept Elaboration and Evaluation
After conducting these activities, review and summarize the following key concepts:
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Read different versions of The Little Red Hen. As a class, make a Venn diagram to show how the stories are alike and different.
Make bread or tortillas using flour that the students grind in class with the hand or electric grinder.
Note: Purchase hard red wheat from the grocery store to grind into flour and use for this activity. Using the wheat the students remove from the wheat stem is not recommended.
Create a sensory retelling station where students can retell the story of The Little Red Hen. Include a bin of wheat seeds, wheat stalks, a bin of wheat flour, characters from The Little Red Hen, and clay (to represent the bread dough).
Parts of the Background Agricultural Connections section and Activity 3 from Minnesota Agriculture in the Classroom.
Vanae Morris, Debra Spielmaker, Pat Thompson, & Lynn Wallin
Utah Agriculture in the Classroom and Oklahoma Agriculture in the Classroom