National Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix
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Clothes on the Grow
6 - 8
Two or three 50-minute sessions
Students will gain a broad understanding of the types and sources of different fibers, examining their origins and observing their differences. Activities in this lesson include examining clothing and clothing labels and observing how different types of fabrics burn.
- Edna Mode Scene 2 video clip
- Suitcase of clothing items made from various materials and in various countries
- Clothing Investigations activity sheet
- World Map
- Natural Fibers, Synthetic Fibers handout
- Clothing Rack Consumer and Historian handout and activity sheets
- Carded wool*
- Wool spinning hooks*
*These items are included in the Wool Spinning Kit, which is available for purchase from agclassroomstore.com.
- Great Balls of Fire activity sheet and questions
- 3" x 3" square swatches of wool, cotton, polyester, nylon, linen, acrylic, and silk fabrics
- Two deep glass dishes (beakers or Pyrex bowls)
- Lighter with adjustable flame
- Metal tongs
- Pitcher of water and fire extinguisher
Essential Files (maps, charts, pictures, or documents)
- World Map
- Natural Fibers, Synthetic Fibers Handout
- Answer Key
- Great Balls of Fire Activity Sheet and Questions
- Clothing Rack Consumer and Historian Handout and Activity Sheets
fiber: thin thread of natural or artificial material that can be used to make yarn
natural fiber: fiber from a natural source, such as a plant or animal, that can be used to make yarn without chemical alteration
synthetic fiber: fiber that is man-made; the original substance is chemically altered to form fiber that can be used to make yarn
nonrenewable resource: limited natural resource that cannot be replaced or reproduced within a generation and cannot be managed for renewal. Examples: oil, soil, mineral resources (lead, iron, cobalt, zinc, etc.)
renewable resource: natural resource that can be replaced naturally or by human efforts at a sustainable rate. Examples: forests, fish, wildlife, agriculture, plants, animals
textile industry: concerned with the design, production, and distribution of yarn, cloth, and clothing
warp: the set of lengthwise threads on a loom that are crossed at right angles by the weft
weft: thread or yarn which is drawn through the warp to create cloth
Did you know? (Ag Facts)
- The US textile industry supply chain—from textile fibers to apparel and other sewn products—employed an estimated 579,000 workers in 2015.1
- The US government estimates that one textile job in this country supports three other jobs.1
- In 2015, textile workers on average earned 155% more than apparel store workers ($626 per week vs. $245) and received health care and pension benefits.1
- The United States is the world leader in textile research and development, developing next generation textile materials such as conductive fabric with antistatic properties, electronic textiles that can monitor heart rate and other vital signs, antimicrobial fibers, lifesaving body armor, and new fabrics that adapt to the climate to make the wearer warmer or cooler.1
Background Agricultural Connections
Interest Approach – Engagement
- Show the video clip Edna Mode Scene 2 from the movie The Incredibles. In the clip Edna describes the properties of the fabric for each supersuit.
- As a class brainstorm different careers that could have played a role in producing the supersuits. Consider the production of the fabric, the making of the supersuits, and how the suits might be marketed and distributed.
- Tell students that you are now going to explore the materials that normal clothes are made from and the careers involved in their production.
Activity 1: Clothes from Around the World
- Open a suitcase of various garments you have brought in. Pass out a garment to each student or group of students.
- Either project the Clothing Investigations activity sheet to fill out as a class or pass out a copy to each student.
- Ask students how they can determine what their garments are made out of and where they were made.
- Project the World Map. Ask your students to read the garment labels, and mark where each garment was made on the map. You may also give a copy of the map to each student to mark along with you. If you do, project a political world map, and ask your students to color and label the countries on their own maps.
- Note on the Clothing Investigations activity sheet where each item was made.
- Ask students to think more about the sources of these clothes: Where were most of the clothes made? Do they think the fibers were produced in the country where the garment was made?
- Discuss with students the differences between natural and synthetic fibers using the Natural Fibers, Synthetic Fibers handout.
- Remind students of the difference between renewable and nonrenewable resources. If students are unfamiliar with this concept, the lesson plans Corn an A-maizing Plant and Planet Zorcon provide activities for teaching the topic.
- Ask students to determine how they would fill out the remaining columns on the Clothing Investigations activity sheet for their garments, and then ask them to share this information with the class.
- Hand out the Clothing Rack Consumer and Historian information sheet and activity sheets. Have students read and complete them independently.
Activity 2: Spinning Wool
- Discuss how fibers are spun to make thread that will be made into cloth.
- Spin wool with your students. You may purchase a Wool Spinning Kit (see Materials) or source your own carded wool and wool hooks. The hooks provided with the kit are chain-link fence ties; a piece of wire cut to 8 inches with the top inch bent down into a candy cane shape will also work. Provide each student with a wool hook and a piece of carded wool approximately 1/4 inch wide and 14 inches long. Guide students using the instructions given below. A Wool Spinning Tutorial video is also available.
- If you are right-handed, place the hook in your right hand (left if you are left-handed).
- Hold the wool near the top in your other hand and fold over the top 1/2 inch to make a loop in the top of the wool. Place the loop around the hook end of the wire.
- Begin spinning the wool hook in one direction. As the wool spins and gets tight against your fingers, move your fingers down the wool, letting out more unspun fiber— this is called drafting. You are spinning! If you get bumps in your yarn, you are spinning too tight and should draft out more wool.
- When you have spun the length of yarn, don’t let go or the yarn will unspin. You are now ready to ply your yarn. Plying is the twisting together of two single strands of spun wool. The easiest way to ply your yarn is to have someone place their finger in the center of your spun yarn (like you would place your finger on a ribbon for a package), bring the two ends together so the two strands are side by side and then have the person with their finger in the middle let go and allow the wool strands to twist together.
- The double strand that you now have is plied yarn. It is strong and won’t unspin. Tie it around your wrist and make a bracelet or use it for a bookmark.
- Tell students that in the next activity they will observe the fire resistant properties of wool.
Activity 3: Great Balls of Fire
Note: This demonstration should be performed over a lab table or a table covered with aluminum foil. Clear the area of papers or debris. Make sure you know exactly what you are burning. A swatch that is 20% cotton and 80% polyester will burn differently than one that is 100% polyester. Dyes and fabric finishes may alter the flammability and burning patterns of fabrics. They may also affect the shape and color of the residue. Generally, however, fabrics will burn true to form.
- Provide each student with a copy of the Great Balls of Fire activity sheet and questions.
- Show students the 3" x 3" fabric samples, and identify the type and source of the fiber (e.g., wool from sheep, linen from flax). Students should record the information observed and discussed throughout this activity on the Great Balls of Fire! activity sheet.
- Assign one person as a timekeeper and provide him or her with a stop watch or a watch with a second hand.
- Hold one fabric swatch at a time with the tongs and light the edge. Have the timekeeper record how long it takes each sample to burn. Hold each sample above the glass dish so the class can observe the burning pattern. As the remains fall into the glass dish, point out the characteristics of the ash. Discuss the effect each material would have on a burn victim.
- Have students complete the Great Balls of Fire! questions after the activity is completed.
Concept Elaboration and Evaluation
After conducting these activities, review and summarize the following key concepts:
- Natural fibers are produced by farmers and ranchers who raise fiber-producing plants and animals like cotton, flax, sheep, and alpacas.
- Clothing labels provide information on what the fabric is made from and where the clothing was made.
- Fiber can be made from renewable and nonrenewable resources.
- There are a wide variety of careers available related to the production of fiber and fabric.
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!
Provide students with a black and white map of the world. Ask them to use online resources to identify the top five countries for producing wool, cotton, and flax fiber. Then have them shade those countries on the map using different colors for each fiber. Discuss why certain fibers are produced in different regions of the world.
Break your class down into groups of four. In a predetermined amount of time, ask the groups to list as many jobs as they can think of from farm to fashion.
Use the Hands-On With Wool activity to weave, dye, and felt wool with your students. Ask these questions: How long would it take to make a garment by hand from raising the animal or fiber crop (shearing/harvesting and processing the fiber) through spinning, weaving, and sewing to the finished product? (More than 2 years!) How long would it take using modern machinery? (Somewhere between 12 and 18 months)
Suggested Companion Resources
- Cotton Education Kit (Kit)
- Wool Samples (Kit)
- Wool Spinning Kit (Kit)
- America's Heartland: Bachelor Sheep Ranch (Multimedia)
- America's Heartland: Cotton Episodes (Multimedia)
- America's Heartland: Wild & Wooly Roundup (Multimedia)
- Cotton... From Field to Fabric (Multimedia)
- How It's Made: Cotton Yarn (Multimedia)
- How It's Made: Wool (Multimedia)
- Illustrated Accounts of Moments in Agricultural History (Multimedia)
- Cotton Reader (Booklets & Readers)
Agricultural Literacy Outcomes
Plants and Animals for Food, Fiber & Energy
- Identify renewable and nonrenewable energy sources (T2.6-8.d)
- Identify where labeling indicates the origin of food and fiber (T2.6-8.f)
Education Content Standards
MS-PS1: Matter and Its Interactions
MS-PS1-3Gather and make sense of information to describe that synthetic materials come from natural resources and impact society.
Common Core Connections
Language: Anchor Standards
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.6Acquire and use accurately a range of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when encountering an unknown term important to comprehension or expression.