Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix
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Sheep See, Sheep Do (Grades 3-5)
3 - 5
Activity 1: 1 hour, Activity 2: 30 minutes, Activity 3: variable
Students will explore the difference between inherited and acquired traits and understand why knowledge of inherited and acquired traits is important to agriculture. Activities in this lesson include trait sorting, two short movies, a PTC taste-test, and student presentations.
Interest Approach — Engagement
- Sticky notes, 1 per student
Activity 1: Traits
- AITC Inherited vs. Acquired Kahoot! game
- Personal devices for students to play
- Projector/computer combination
- Alternative Activity:
- Traits List, cut apart and laminated
- Two baskets, one labeled “Inherited” and one labeled “Acquired”
- Alternative Activity:
- Lamb Eats What Mom Eats video
- PTC testing strips, available from most science supply companies
- Hard candies
Activity 2: Value of Domesticated Animals
- Guns, Germs, and Steel video clip
Activity 3: Student Presentations
- Farm Animal Prompt Cards, cut apart, 1 per student or group of students
- Presentation Rubric, 1 per student
Essential Files (maps, charts, pictures, or documents)
trait: a distinguishing characteristic or quality
inherited trait: a genetically determined characteristic or quality that distinguishes someone or something; inherited traits are passed in DNA from parents to their offspring
domesticate: to breed a population of animals or plants to serve the purposes of human beings and to need and accept human care
selective breeding: the intentional breeding of organisms with desirable traits in an attempt to produce offspring with desirable characteristics or with improved traits
temperament: the usual attitude, mood, or behavior of a person or animal
acquired trait: a trait that develops during the lifetime of the organism but is not in the organism’s DNA and is not inherited by its offspring; acquired traits are often learned
Did you know? (Ag Facts)
- More than 50 breeds of sheep are raised in the United States.1
- As of January 2015, there were more than 5.2 million sheep in the United States.1
- Sheep eat a wide range of plants and can work like self-propelled lawnmowers to control weeds. They are even being used by ski resorts to keep slopes clear of brush and weeds in the summer.1
Background Agricultural Connections
Interest Approach – Engagement
- Provide each student with a sticky note. Ask students to write their names in the middle of the sticky note.
- Draw a large table on the board with two columns. Title one column "Like what friends and family like" and the other "Just born that way."
- Ask students to place their sticky notes under the statement that they most agree with in response to the following poll question: “What determines the type of ice cream that you prefer; do you like what your friends and family like, or were you just born that way?”
- Lead a short, open-ended discussion on the poll results. Ask students why they answered as they did. Tell them that you will return to this poll question after learning more about inherited and acquired traits.
Activity 1: Traits
- Explain to your students the difference between an inherited and an acquired trait.
- Provide each student with a personal device such as a laptop, tablet, or smartphone, and use the AITC Inherited vs. Acquired Kahoot! game (start a free account if you do not already have one and search the public Kahoots for AITC Inherited vs. Acquired Traits) to help students practice identifying the difference between inherited and acquired traits. If you do not have enough devices for each student, they may play as teams, or you may use the alternative activity described below.
- Alternative Activity:
- Pass out one trait from the Traits List to each student.
- Using two baskets that you have labeled “Inherited” and “Acquired,” ask students to place their trait statement into the correct basket as you walk down the aisle or to their tables.
- Once all the traits are placed in the baskets, read each trait card in each basket and discuss the accuracy of the trait placement with the students. If any traits are in the wrong basket, switch the trait’s location and help students understand why the trait fits in the other basket.
- Alternative Activity:
- Show students the Lambs Eat What Mom Eats movie. Ask students to explain what they saw. Did these lambs inherit or acquire their taste preferences?
- Next, hold a taste test using PTC testing strips to see which students can taste a bitter flavor. PTC can either be very bitter or virtually tasteless depending on the taster’s genetic makeup. The ability to taste PTC is a trait that roughly 70% of Americans inherit. Have some hard candy available for those who can taste the bitter PTC to help them get rid of the unpleasant taste.
- Refer the students back to the poll question about ice cream preferences. Ask if they would change their answers after watching the movie and doing the PTC taste test, and allow them to move their sticky notes. If students don’t already conclude that some traits can be both inherited and acquired, help them think about the example of taste preference. The ability to taste PTC is inherited, but the movie Lambs Eat What Mom Eats showed that taste can also be acquired through learning.
Activity 2: Value of Domesticated Animals
- Discuss with students how knowledge of inherited and acquired traits is important to agriculture. Explain the meaning of the term domesticate.
- Ask students to help you make a list of domestic farm animals on the board. Your list could include cattle, horses, sheep, goats, chickens, turkeys, or any other domestic animal commonly found on a farm.
- Next, ask students what purpose each of these animals has. Help students recognize that cattle provide meat and milk, horses historically provided transportation and power, sheep provide meat, wool, and sometimes milk, goats provide meat and milk, chickens provide meat and eggs, and turkeys provide meat.
- Point out that each animal’s ancestors were once wild. Long ago humans began hunting wild animals. Recognizing that these animals could benefit their families by providing food to eat and fiber or leather for clothing and tools, humans began domesticating animals about 10,000 years ago. Over the ensuing years, farmers have repeatedly chosen to breed animals with the best characteristics for their needs. The animals that produced the most milk or the finest wool were kept for breeding, while others might have been sold or traded or used for meat. As a result of this selective breeding, farm animals have changed in behavior and appearance over the years.
- While referencing your list of farm animals on the board from steps one and two, ask your students why more animal species are not raised on farms.
- Allow students to begin thinking about this question, then show the first four minutes of Guns, Germs, and Steel (Part 5). Consider the following questions for class discussion during or after the video clip:
- Why haven’t most animal species been farmed? (they don’t have a practical use to humans, they could be impractical to farm due to space or diet requirements)
- What type of animals are best suited for farming? (large, plant-eating mammals)
- Why aren’t elephants farmed in Asia to accomplish work? (it takes too long for the animal to reach a mature age for working and for reproduction)
- Why is temperament important to a domesticated animal? (safety and ability to get along with humans)
- What inherited traits and acquired traits make an animal suitable for domestication? (a good temperament to get along with humans, a practical use/benefit to humans such as the ability to perform work or to provide food)
Activity 3: Student Presentations
- Assign each student or group of students a domestic farm animal by giving them one of the attached Farm Animal Prompt Cards.
- Provide students the Presentation Rubric. Ask them to create a short presentation about their animal and to include a visual support. This may be a poster or a PowerPoint, or you may choose to have the students use a multimedia tool like Glogster or Padlet.
- Instruct students to include the following items in their presentation:
- Explanation of why this animal is suited to domestication
- Name and pictures of assigned farm animal breed
- Purpose of this breed
- Examples of inherited traits that help this breed fulfill its purpose. Note: The prompt cards give students three examples of traits for each animal. To challenge your students, require them to find additional traits through their own research.
- Have the students present their videos and posters to the class and/or post them to your classroom blog or website.
Concept Elaboration and Evaluation
After conducting these activities, review and summarize the following key concepts:
- Farmers use knowledge of acquired and inherited traits to improve the productivity and ease of managing the plants and animals they raise.
- Acquired traits develop during the lifetime of the organism but are not in the organism’s DNA.
- Inherited traits are genetically determined and passed from parents to offspring.
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!
Suggested Companion Resources
- PTC Paper (Kit)
- Parent/Offspring Cards (Kit)
- Pompom Punnett Square Kit (Kit)
- Heredity (UEN Sci-Ber Text for 5th Grade) (Website)
- Sheep 101 (Website)
State Standards for Utah
Grade 4: SEEd Strand 4.1Through the study of organisms, inferences can be made about environments both past and present. Plants and animals have both internal and external structures that serve various functions for growth, survival, behavior, and reproduction. Animals use different sense receptors specialized for particular kinds of information to understand and respond to their environment. Some kinds of plants and animals that once lived on Earth can no longer be found. However, fossils from these organisms provide evidence about the types of organisms that lived long ago and the nature of their environments. Additionally, the presence and location of certain fossil types indicate changes that have occurred in environments over time.
Standard 4.1.1Construct an explanation from evidence that plants and animals have internal and external structures that function to support survival, growth, behavior, and reproduction. Emphasize how structures support an organism’s survival in its environment and how internal and external structures of plants and animals vary within the same and across multiple Utah environments. Examples of structures could include thorns on a stem to prevent predation or gills on a fish to allow it to breathe underwater. (LS1.A)
Standard 4.1.2Develop and use a model of a system to describe how animals receive different types of information from their environment through their senses, process the information in their brain, and respond to the information. Emphasize how animals are able to use their perceptions and memories to guide their actions. Examples could include models that explain how animals sense and then respond to different aspects of their environment such as sounds, temperature, or smell. (LS1.D)
Grade 3: SEEd Strand 3.2Organisms (plants and animals, including humans) have unique and diverse life cycles, but they all follow a pattern of birth, growth, reproduction, and death. Different organisms vary in how they look and function because they have different inherited traits. An organism’s traits are inherited from its parents and can be influenced by the environment. Variations in traits between individuals in a population may provide advantages in surviving and reproducing in particular environments. When the environment changes, some organisms have traits that allow them to survive, some move to new locations, and some do not survive. Humans can design solutions to reduce the impact of environmental changes on organisms.
Standard 3.2.3Construct an explanation that the environment can affect the traits of an organism. Examples could include that the growth of normally tall plants is stunted with insufficient water or that pets given too much food and little exercise may become overweight. (LS3.B)
Grade 5: Science Standard 5Students will understand that traits are passed from the parent organisms to their offspring, and that sometimes the offspring may possess variations of these traits that may help or hinder survival in a given environment.
Objective 1Using supporting evidence, show that traits are transferred from a parent organism to its offspring. Meeting one or more of the following indicators: a) Make a chart and collect data identifying various traits among a given population (e.g., the hand span of students in the classroom, the color and texture of different apples, the number of petals of a given flower). b) Identify similar physical traits of a parent organism and its offspring (e.g., trees and saplings, leopards and cubs, chickens and chicks). c) Compare various examples of offspring that do not initially resemble the parent organism but mature to become similar to the parent organism.(e.g., mealworms and darkling beetles, tadpoles and frogs, seedlings and vegetables, caterpillars and butterflies). d) Contrast inherited traits with traits and behaviors that are not inherited but may be learned or induced by environmental factors (e.g., cat purring to cat meowing to be let out of the house; the round shape of a willow is inherited, while leaning away from the prevailing wind is induced). e) Investigate variations and similarities in plants grown from seeds of a parent plant (e.g., how seeds from the same plant species can produce different colored flowers or identical flowers).
Objective 2Describe how some characteristics could give a species a survival advantage in a particular environment. Meeting one or more of the following indicators: a) Compare the traits of similar species for physical abilities, instinctual behaviors, and specialized body structures that increase the survival of one species in a specific environment over another species (e.g., difference between the feet of snowshoe hare and cottontail rabbit, differences in leaves of plants growing at different altitudes, differences between the feathers of an owl and a hummingbird, differences in parental behavior among various fish). b) Identify that some environments give one species a survival advantage over another (e.g., warm water favors fish such as carp, cold water favors fish such as trout, environments that burn regularly favor grasses, environments that do not often burn favor trees). c) Describe how a particular physical attribute may provide an advantage for survival in one environment but not in another (e.g., heavy fur in arctic climates keep animals warm whereas in hot desert climates it would cause overheating; flippers on such animals as sea lions and seals provide excellent swimming structures in the water but become clumsy and awkward on land; cacti retain the right amount of water in arid regions but would develop root rot in a more temperate region; fish gills have the ability to absorb oxygen in water but not on land). d) Research a specific plant or animal and report how specific physical attributes provide an advantage for survival in a specific environment.
Agricultural Literacy Outcomes
Science, Technology, Engineering & Math
- Identify examples of how the knowledge of inherited traits is applied to farmed plants and animals in order to meet specific objectives (i.e., increased yields, better nutrition, etc.) (T4.3-5.c)
Common Core Connections
Speaking and Listening: Anchor Standards
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.4Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.5Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information and enhance understanding of presentations.
3-LS3: Heredity: Inheritance and Variation of Traits
3-LS3-1Analyze the interpret data to provide evidence that plants and animals have traits inherited from parents and that variation of these traits exists in a group of similar organisms.
3-LS3-2Use evidence to support the explanation that traits can be influenced by the environment