In the United States pigs are most commonly raised for their meat. Meat from a pig is called pork. Some pork, such as bacon and ham is processed by smoking the meat to add flavor. Sausage is pork meat that has been ground up and seasoned. Pork chops or roasts are considered fresh meats because they are not smoked or seasoned. Pork is a good source of protein and vitamins.
Pigs are part of the swine family. Male swine are called boars. Female swine are called sows. Baby pigs are called piglets or pigs. Once a pig reaches market weight (about 240 pounds) they are called hogs. It takes about 6 months for a baby pig to grow to market size.
A sow gives birth to a litter of pigs about twice per year. A litter usually has six to 12 baby pigs. During the first 3-5 weeks baby pigs are nourished by their mother's milk. Eventually they are weaned and eat corn, wheat and other grains.
There are many breeds of pigs around the world. In the United States common breeds include Duroc, Hampshire, Yorkshire, and Spots. The most obvious characteristics that distinguish breeds of pigs are their color and if their ears stand erect or if their ears are droopy. For example, the Yorkshire pig is white and it's ears stand erect. The Duroc pig is solid red (brown) in color and has large, droopy ears. The Hampshire is black with a white "belt" around it's shoulders. It has ears that stand erect. Spots is white with black spots and has large, droopy ears.
Interest Approach - Engagement
Write the word “pig” on the board. Ask students what words they think of when you say the word “pig.” Record their words on the board.
To encourage class participation and to better gauge prior understanding, ask further questions. Examples include:
"What color(s) can pigs be?"
"Why do we raise pigs?"
"Where do pigs usually live?"
"What do pigs eat?"
Activity 1: Pigs
Before class, print the attached document, Pigs-True or False. Cut the paper into strips, leaving 1 statement per strip. You will have 13 statements.
Draw a line down the center of your board. Write, True on one side of the line and False on the other. Clarify the definitions of these two words and let the students know that they will be learning about pigs. They will be identifying statements as either true or false.
Pass the strips of paper containing the True/False statements out to individual students or teams of students (depending on class size). Instruct the student(s) to read their statement and then listen carefully as you read them a book. As you read, they will learn if their statement is true or false. Instruct the students to raise their hands when they know the answer to their statement. Once the statement has been identified as either true or false, place the strip of paper on the appropriate side of the board with tape or a magnet.
Read the book, Pigs by Gail Gibbons. There will be 1 true or false statement for each 2 pages of the book.
Pigs on the farm originally came from wild boars. (True)
Pigs have 5 toes, just like humans. (False. Pigs have 4 toes.)
A baby pig is called a piglet. (True)
Pigs only come in one size and color. (False. There are many sizes and colors [breeds] of pigs)
Pigs are very smart. They can be trained to do tricks just like a dog. (True)
Pigs wallow in water or mud to stay cool. (True)
Pigs have very good eyesight. (False. Pigs have poor eyesight, but a very keen sense of smell.)
Pigs eat corn, grains, and soybean meal. (True)
All pigs are kept inside barns. (False. Some pigs are kept inside large barns with heating and air conditioning. Other pigs are kept housed outdoors with shelter from the heat or cold.)
A mother pig has between 3 and 5 piglets in every litter. (False. There are typically six to twelve baby pigs in a litter.)
Pigs grow very quickly. They will weigh over 200 pounds when they are 6 months old. (True)
Most pigs are raised for their meat. (True)
If you visit a fair, you will not see pigs. (False. Most fairs have pigs along with many other farm animals.)
Activity 2: This Little Pig
Review basic pig facts that your students have learned thus far. List vocabulary words on the board. Clarify the definitions of words your students are still unfamiliar with.
Hand out This Little Pig worksheet. Complete side A first. Instruct students to write the swine-related words under the appropriate pictures.
Complete side B second. Read the sentences to students. Instruct them to underline the vocabulary words in the sentences. Students will complete the worksheet by drawing pictures to illustrate the vocabulary words.
Activity 3: To Be a Pig Farmer
To prepare for this activity, print one copy of the Pork Product Cards and cut them in half. You will have 12 cards representing products and by-products that pigs provide for humans. Fold the cards in half and "hide" them in locations throughout your classroom. If possible, consider hiding the 5 food cards (bacon, sausage, ham, Canadian bacon, and pork chops) in the lunchroom to help students associate that pigs provide food for our diets. Then, take a walking field trip to the lunchroom for step 6 of this activity.
Ask your students to name some of the jobs that farmers do each day. Help students recognize that farmers grow and raise plants and animals that provide food for us to eat and clothing to wear. There are many kinds of farmers. Ask your students, What would it be like to be a pig farmer? A pig farmer is responsible for many things. They must be very knowledgeable of pigs and be capable of feeding and caring for them properly to keep them healthy and happy.
Ask students what they need for their bodies to be healthy and well cared for. Students should recognize their need for food, clothing, and shelter. If necessary, ask more guiding questions to lead them to these answers. Point out that these necessities are provided by their caregivers, in most cases this will be their parents. Farmers are the caregivers of animals. They are responsible to provide for the needs of the animals they raise.
Show the video clip, The Amazing Pig. Prepare the students for the video clip by letting them know that they will be seeing a large pig farm with many farmers at work. Stop the video along the way and point out what pig farmers do to take good care of their pigs. A few examples include:
Keeping pigs cool with fans and misters when it is hot.
Keeping pigs warm in the winter when it is cold.
Monitoring the pigs to be sure they are healthy (veterinarians also help with this).
Helping with new baby pigs.
Moving pigs from place to place as they grow.
Note: The first 44 seconds of the video clip addresses the statistics of pig farms in the state of Utah. However, the remaining portion of the video accurately reflects what happens on large hog farms around the country and is well geared for an elementary level audience.
Once students recognize the tasks completed by farmers each day to care for pigs, ask them, What do pigs provide for humans?
Explain that pigs provide many things for humans. Next, conduct a scavenger hunt with your students to "find" the Pork Product Cards that are hidden throughout the classroom (and lunchroom if applicable). Choose 1 student at a time to find a card, then discuss the card and place it on the board.
Bacon: Thin slices of pork that has been cured to add flavor.
Sausage: Ground up pork meat with added spices.
Ham: Cured pork that is popular for Christmas, Easter or other family gatherings. It is also a popular sandwich meat.
Canadian Bacon: Cured pork meat. Your students may recognize it as part of a Hawaiian style pizza.
Pork Chops: A fresh (not cured) cut of pork popular for grilling.
Cosmetics, Gelatin, Crayons, and Chalk: These products from pigs are considered byproducts or secondary products. After the meat is harvested from a pig, the non-meat portions of the pig are used to make products such as these. Little to none of the pig is wasted or thrown away.
Insulin: The first insulin produced for humans with diabetes came from pigs (and cows). Pork insulin is no longer used for humans in the United States, but it can be used to make insulin for pets with diabetes.
Heart Valves: Pigs are very valuable to medical science. A pig's circulatory system is very similar to a human circulatory system. Pigs help in medical research to learn more about treatments for heart diseases in humans. A pig's heart valve can actually be transplanted into a human whose heart valve has failed. Pig heart valves have saved many lives.
Concept Elaboration and Evaluation
After conducting these activities, use the following questions to review and summarize the key concepts:
What color(s) can pigs be? (White, black, brown, red, or multi colored)
Why do we raise pigs? (Primarily for meat such as ham, bacon, pork chops, and sausage)
Where do pigs usually live? (inside barns, but they can also be raised outdoors)
What do pigs eat? (Corn and soybeans)
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!
Read several different versions of “The Three Little Pigs. Ask students to compare the stories and then write their own modern version of the story and act out their stories. Encourage students to use actual facts about pigs in their stories.
Write a cooperative class poem. Give each student a blank index card and ask them to write an adjective on the card. On the board, write the following:
Fill in the blanks with adjectives from the cards and ask students to copy and illustrate the poem.
Divide students into groups of four or five. Instruct each group to write the instructions for a recipe for “Pigs in a Blanket” using canned crescent rolls and small sausages. When the recipes are complete, the groups will trade recipes and follow the instructions provided by the other group.
Discuss the descriptions of the four swine breeds described in the background. Show the students the attached diagram of four breeds of swine. Ask students to draw simple pictures of the four breeds and label them. Each student will select one of the four breeds and make a model of it using plastic bottles and markers. After completing their models, have students sort them according to breed. Count the models from each breed and create simple graphs to show the distribution.
Variation: If plastic bottles are unavailable, substitute paper plates or other art supplies.
Living things (plants and animals, including humans) depend on their surroundings to get what they need, including food, water, shelter, and a favorable temperature. Plants and animals have external features that allow them to survive in a variety of environments. Young plants and animals are similar but not exactly like their parents. In many kinds of animals, parents and offspring engage in behaviors that help the offspring to survive.
Standard 1.2.3 - Obtain, evaluate, and communicate information about the patterns of plants and nonhuman animals that are alike, but not exactly like, their parents. An example could include that most carrots are orange and shaped like a cone but may be different sizes or have differing tastes. (LS3.A, LS3.B)
Standard 1.2.4 - Construct an explanation of the patterns in the behaviors of parents and offspring which help offspring to survive. Examples of behavioral patterns could include the signals that offspring make such as crying, chirping, and other vocalizations or the responses of the parents such as feeding, comforting, and protecting the offspring. (LS1.B)
Agricultural Literacy Outcomes
Agriculture and the Environment
Describe how farmers use land to grow crops and support livestock (T1.K-2.a)
Culture, Society, Economy & Geography
Trace the sources of agricultural products (plant or animal) used daily (T5.K-2.f)
Identify plants and animals grown or raised locally that are used for food, clothing, shelter, and landscapes (T5.K-2.d)
Discuss what a farmer does (T5.K-2.a)
Plants and Animals for Food, Fiber & Energy
Identify examples of feed/food products eaten by animals and people (T2.K-2.c)
Identify animals involved in agricultural production and their uses (i.e., work, meat, dairy, eggs) (T2.K-2.b)
Education Content Standards
K-ESS3:Earth and Human Activity
K-ESS3-1 Use a model to represent the relationship between the needs of different plants or animals (including humans) and the places they live.
Common Core Connections
Anchor Standards: Reading
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.1Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
Anchor Standards: Writing
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.4Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.9Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.