Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix
Why People Need Plants
The purpose of this lesson is to teach students that plants provide people with food, clothing, shelter, and many other things that we use in our daily lives.
Essential File (map, chart, picture, or document)
farmer: a person who produces food, fiber, or plants, for others to use
fiber: a thread or filament that a textile is made from
wood: material that forms the main substance of a tree; used for building homes and other structures
Background Agricultural Connections
This lesson is part of a series called, Edible Plant Parts. These lessons allow students and teachers to examine the six basic plant parts—roots, stems, leaves, flowers, fruits, and seeds—in a unique way. Through hands-on activities, students will learn about the different plant parts, as well as how to include fruits and vegetables into their daily meals as part of a healthy diet. Students will also learn about agriculture and the people who produce our food. The remaining lessons can be found at the following links:
- Why People Need Plants
- Dig 'Em Up
- Snappy Stems
- Luscious Leaves
- Fabulous Flowers
- Freshest Fruits
- Supreme Seeds
- Edible Plant Game
- Eat 'Em Up
Everything we eat and most of the things we use in our daily lives come directly or indirectly from plants. In addition to growing plants that we eat every day, farmers and ranchers grow plants that produce material we need, like fiber for clothing and wood for paper, pencils, and the homes we live in. The United States has a rich history in agriculture and continues to play a large role in feeding the people of our country. In fact, California is the largest food and agricultural economy in the nation.
Farming has changed a lot over the past one hundred years. Your grandparents or great-grandparents might have grown up on farms where their families raised much of their own food, but today most of us rely upon the 2% of people who live on farms in the United States to grow and produce food for the rest of us.
Modern technology, like tractors and irrigation systems, have made it possible for farmers to produce more food for more people on less land. One thing that has stayed the same, however, is that family farmers are still working hard to grow healthy and affordable food for all of us who don’t live on farms.
Interest Approach - Engagement
- Ask students to list three items you use every day.
- Trace each of those items back to a plant by drawing a picture. Examples could include a house or building which is made using wood harvested from a tree, food items such as fruit, vegetables, and grains are plants that we eat. Animals and animal products such as meat and wool can be traced back to plants because the animals eat plants.
- In this lesson students will learn the importance of plants and that people depend upon plants for food, fiber, shelter, fuel, and clean air.
- Make space on the board or hang a piece of chart paper in front of the room. Ask students to help you make a list of things that people get from plants. List and discuss each item. Below is an example.
- Food: vegetables, fruit, meat, eggs, dairy, etc.
- Oxygen: plants make this through photosynthesis
- Clothing: cotton jeans, flax, and rayon fabric
- Medicine: herbal teas, cancer treatment medicines developed from bark of the Yew tree, active ingredient in aspirin was developed from the bark of willow trees, etc.
- Paper: from wood pulp
- Furniture: lumber from trees
- Cosmetics: plant dyes, plant oil fragrances, nut shell exfoliants in facial wash, etc.
- Energy sources: biofuel, firewood, etc.
- Shelter: lumber from trees and straw bales for homes.
- Review the list with students and emphasize that plants make up the base of the food chain by gathering sunlight energy and turning it into food for themselves and other living organisms. Ask students if we could go a day without plants. Refer to the list to reinforce the importance of plants. Instruct students to use their Plants Around the Classroom activity sheet to make a list of everything they see that comes from a plant.
- Organize students into groups of three or four.
- Without telling the students the purpose of the lesson, distribute the following plant products to each group. To make the lesson more interesting, vary the items in each group.
- Cotton fabric
- Maple syrup
- Granulated sugar packet
- Perfumed vegetable soap
- Wooden object
- Have the groups discuss the origin of each product. For example, the piece of wood came from a tree. Have the students discuss where each item would fit on their People Need Plants activity sheet, and fill out the appropriate spaces.
- After groups are finished, ask one group where they placed the vegetable soap on the chart and ask them where they think the soap came from. Continue in this fashion until you have called on each group and have discussed the origin and category for each item. Conclusion: Humans depend on plants for survival. Variation: Instead of doing the worksheet in groups, fill it out as a class while the teacher holds up an example of each item on the list.
Concept Elaboration and Evaluation:
After completing these activities, review and summarize the following key concepts:
- Agriculture provides our basic necessities such as plants to eat, wood for building homes and structures, and plants to feed animals that provide milk, meat, eggs, or fiber.
- Farmers grow these plants.
- Instead of doing the worksheet in groups, fill it out as a class while the teacher holds up an example of each item on the list.
Identify farmers in your community and have students write thank-you letters to them for providing the food that we eat. Ask the farmer to write back every month with a description of a few activities they are working on to produce their crops.
Make a collage of things that come from plants.
Have each student think of a plant from which we get at least three products, then share their information with a partner.
Incorporate Agricultural Fact and Activity Sheets from CFAITC.
This lesson update was funded by a grant from the Network for a Healthy California.
Executive Director: Judy Culbertson
Illustrator: Erik Davison
Layout & Design: Nina Danner
Copy Editor: Leah Rosasco
Suggested Companion Resources
- Edible Plant Game
- Growing Letters!
- A Weed Is a Flower: The Life of George Washington Carver
- Amazing Plant Powers: How Plants Fly, Fight, Hide, Hunt, & Change the World
- Harvesting Friends, Cosechando Amigos
- How Food gets from Farms to Store Shelves
- The Curious Garden
- The Fruits We Eat
- The Tree Farmer
- You're Aboard Spaceship Earth
- Jr. Sprout - Healthy Eating
- Eat Happy Project video series
- Food Doesn't Grow in the Supermarket!
- Farm to Table & Beyond
- GrowLab: A Complete Guide to Gardening in the Classroom
- GrowLab: Classroom Activities for Indoor Gardens and Grow Lights
- Math in the Garden
- The Growing Classroom
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