Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix
My Farm Web (Grades 3-5)
Students use the visual representation of a web to explore the role of agriculture in their daily lives and understand how most of the necessities of life can be traced back to the farm.
- Farm Web Graphics, laminated* or mounted on colored cardstock
- 30 pieces of yarn* or string
- Heartland by Diane Siebert (optional)
- Harvest Year by Cris Peterson (optional)
- How Did That Get in My Lunchbox? by Chris Butterworth (optional)
*These items are included in the My Farm Web Kit, which is available for purchase from agclassroomstore.com.
Essential File (map, chart, picture, or document)
agriculture: the science, art, or practice of cultivating the soil, producing crops, and raising livestock and in varying degrees the preparation and marketing of the resulting products
fabric: natural fibers are produced on the farm; the two most important fibers are wool and cotton. These fibers are made into thread or yarn and then knitted or woven into fabric or cloth, then finally made into gloves, socks, suits, coats, and other products including blankets, carpets, and curtains.
farming: the production of food and fiber derived from plants and animals. Farmers must understand economics, business, mathematics, and the science involved in getting their crops and animals to market. The science involved in agriculture includes the knowledge of ecosystems, soil, water, weather, chemistry, and plant and animal biology.
flowers: Flower and nursery crop production are part of the “Green Industry,” which includes turfgrass. The primary use of these crops is for aesthetics or beauty.
food: Made from the raw products taken from the farm. Some products, like corn, may be consumed in their raw state or processed into an entirely different product like corn chips, soda, peanut butter, detergents, or medicines. Other raw farm products require processing to make them more palatable and digestible before they can be eaten. Wheat, for example, is the most important grain in the United States. We would have to eat hundreds of raw wheat seeds to get the same nutrition we can get more easily from processing the wheat into flour and then baking bread. Bread is a more palatable way to eat wheat. The food industry centers around the processing and distribution of food.
forestry: many forests are cultivated. Agriculturally, many private forests are grown to provide paper and other wood products.
Did You Know? (Ag Facts)
- The average American eats about 68 quarts of popcorn each year.1
- Bananas are most likely the first fruit ever to be grown on a farm.2
- Americans eat approximately 100 acres of pizza each day, or 350 slices per second!3
- Americans are eating 900% more broccoli than we did 20 years ago.4
Background Agricultural Connections
How do you define the word agriculture? The Merriam-Webster Dictionary states that it is the “science, art, or practice of cultivating the soil, producing crops, and raising livestock and in varying degrees the preparation and marketing of the resulting products.” An accurate definition, but this definition doesn’t impart the integral nature or importance of agricultural products—food, clothing, and shelter—in our daily lives. Surely there is a better way to define agriculture!
This lesson uses graphic organizers as a teaching strategy to explore the definition of agriculture. Graphic organizers are research-based visual instructional tools that facilitate learning and student achievement. The use of graphic organizers is a teaching strategy that meets the needs of most learners, especially visual learners. How do they work? Graphic organizers relate new concepts to the learners’ preexisting understandings, which helps them to recognize new relationships between concepts. These associations help students to retain what they have learned. In addition, these visual tools may be used to help access student knowledge and identify student misconceptions.
One type of graphic organizer is the concept map (also referred to as a concept web), which provides a technique for visualizing the relationships between different concepts. A concept map is a diagram showing the relationships between concepts, which are represented by words or pictures and connected with labeled arrows in a downward-branching, hierarchical structure. The relationship between concepts is articulated in linking phrases (e.g., gives rise to, results in, is required by, or contributes to) written on the lines that connect concepts. Linking phrases can be as simple as are, can be, or are part of. After the initial map is drawn, concepts should be cross-linked to other relevant relationships, often drawing lines going across to other group maps.
Agriculture is a big umbrella term that includes many concepts, ranging from farm to fork and from field to fabric. In addition to food and fiber, agriculture also provides numerous products for industrial use such as linseed oil for paint and corn for fuel. Older students working in groups using pencil and paper or marker and dry-erase board can create a concept web with the 5-Fs of agriculture: farming, food, fabric, forestry, and flowers. This lesson plan has been designed for young learners who will focus on one aspect of agriculture—farming. Instead of words, these young learners will use pictures and yarn to create a simple concept web and the relationships, or linking phrases, will be discussed as a class while the concept web is completed.
Interest Approach - Engagement
- Ask the students, "What kinds of things do you use every day?" (You should get answers like food, clothes, books, paper, computers, balls, water, TV, etc.)
- Discuss with the students that the items we use every day are either grown or mined (with a few exceptions, like the sun!). If the item is grown specifically for people, it is a product of agriculture.
- Ask the students "Where do we get the things we use every day?" Most students will say, “at the grocery store!” Some might say, “a factory.” Tell the students that the store is a distribution center where we buy things and that the factory is a place where “raw” ingredients, grown for us (wheat for bread) or provided by nature (petroleum for fuel or plastic), are put together to make a product that ends up in the store.
- Ask your students, "What is agriculture?" Have the students offer their answers and use the information found in the Background Agricultural Connections and the Vocabulary sections of this lesson to define the word "agriculture." Help the students identify their connection to agriculture by recognizing that food, fabric, flowers, and forestry (wood) comes from agriculture.
This activity may be conducted inside or outside; either way, you’ll need about 10 square feet of floor space. The students will place a picture and then the connecting yarn.
Activity 1: Concept Picture Web
- Ask the students, "Where does agriculture begin?" (On a farm.)
- Guide the students to understand that agriculture begins on a farm and there all kinds of farms. Cattle ranches for beef and leather; dairy farms for milk and all the products made from milk; orchards that grow apples to make juice and apple pies; pig farms for pepperoni, bacon, and ham; grain farms that grow corn for fuel or corn syrup for soda, and wheat for bread; cotton farms for blue jeans; and tree farms for paper and landscaping. In fact, there is a different kind of farm for nearly every type of product. Farms specialize in what they grow based upon their location (climate and soil), and farmers choose only a few crops because the type of equipment used to plant and harvest each crop is very specific and expensive.
- Inform students they are now going to create a “farm web” to help them understand agriculture and where the items they use every day come from.
- Have students move to the area where they will build the farm web.
- Place the farm picture in the center of the floor. Mix up the remaining pictures and either put them in a pile or pass a picture to each student.
- Ask the students, “Which pictures will go closest to the farm picture?” (The pictures of plants or animals that are grown or raised on a farm go closest.)
- Students with products made from ingredients produced on a farm should place their pictures onto the web after the farm-raised item is placed.
- As each picture is placed, ask the students to use a linking phrase such as dairy cows make milk (the word make is the linking word) to describe how their items connect to the web. Discuss each new connection as the pictures are placed.
- When all the pictures have been correctly placed, review the linking phrases and ask students if they think other pictures could be added to the web.
- As a conclusion to the activity, read aloud one or more of the recommended books and ask students where the products mentioned in the books would fit into their farm web.
Activity 2: Concept Word Web
- Extend the first activity by further defining agriculture using the 5-Fs of agriculture (see Vocabulary).
- To make sure students understand concept maps and the content, ask students to create a concept web with words on paper or on a whiteboard.
- Divide the students into five groups. Give each group a sheet of chart paper or disperse them along the whiteboard (draw a large rectangle, the size of the chart paper, on the whiteboard for each group); write one of the 5-F words (farm, food, fabric, forestry, flowers) in the center of each paper or rectangle. For a large class, make two more groups and add the words “fuel” and “fish.”
- Ask students to create a concept map around their group’s word by thinking about products they can associate with the word. Give them about 5 minutes. Next, ask them to create linking phrases.
- Ask each group to share and explain their concept web with the class. (Paper maps should be posted on the wall.)
- Conclude the instruction by announcing that the students have visually created a definition of agriculture.
Concept Elaboration and Evaluation
After conducting these activities, review and summarize the following key concepts:
- There are many career opportunities in agriculture.
- Many of the items we use everyday originate on a farm.
- Agricultural products provide for our daily needs—food, clothing, and shelter.
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Leave the concept maps up on the board or on the wall, and encourage other groups to help add to each other’s maps. It’s important to add words showing the relationship between linked concepts if a step or stage is missing.
In addition to the products students thought about with the 5-Fs, ask students to try to identify careers with the new word links they have created. For example, if they have listed the word yogurt as a food, they should now link the word to milk processing plant worker, and then to dairy farmers, and then to dairy computer programmers, and milk-hauling truckers, etc. Again, give the students 5 minutes to see if they can get 20 new career links. Or, make it a contest to see which group can link and list the greatest number of careers. After careers have been identified and written on the concept web, ask students to note the natural resources used to produce each product such as fuel (oil), water, soil, etc.
Read Issue 1 of Ag Today titled Agriculture is Everywhere! This reader can be printed or accessed digitally. It describes the connections humans make daily with agriculture from business and science to the practices of growing and selling row crops and animals to be used for food, fiber, and fuel.
Suggested Companion Resources
- The Very Hungry Western Caterpillar
- Two Truths and a Lie
- Ancient Agriculture
- Bread Comes to Life
- Harvest Year
- How Did That Get in My Lunchbox?
- How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World
- Right This Very Minute: A table-to-farm book about food and farming
- The Perfect Barn
- The Tree Farmer
- About Farm Animals Mini Kit
- My Farm Web
- Pizza Time Bulletin Board
- Bread Comes to Life
- Fascinating Farms Around the World
- Ag Today
- Food and Farm Facts Junior Booklet
- Into the Outdoors: Farm Science