California Agriculture in the Classroom

A Walnut Orchard Through the Seasons

Grade Level(s)

K - 2

Estimated Time

50 minutes


Students will gain an understanding of the changes that take place in a walnut orchard through the seasons by reading and discussing a story about a walnut farm and learning the meaning of important vocabulary words.


Essential Files (maps, charts, pictures, or documents)


canopy: a shade or shelter that grows over something

consumer: a person who buys and uses goods

deciduous: during the fall every year, the leaves fall off the tree

dormant: a period of time when there is reduced activity or growth

fertile: producing vegetation or crops plentifully

harvest: the gathering of a crop

hull: the outer covering of a fruit or seed

orchard: a place where fruit or tree nuts are grown

pest: a plant or animal that can be harmful to other living things

pollinate: to place pollen on the female part of a flower

Did you know? (Ag Facts)

Background - Agricultural Connections

Walnuts are one of the oldest tree foods known to humans and are good for snacking and cooking. The trees originated in ancient Persia (now known as Iran) where walnuts were reserved for royalty. These walnuts were transported to ports around the world by the English merchant marines and so the “Persian Walnut” came to be called the “English Walnut.” Walnuts were introduced to California by the Franciscan fathers who planted walnut trees in the 1700’s during the establishment of the missions. There are also types of walnut trees that are native to California called California black walnuts. The nuts of one type of black walnut, Northern California black, are used by nurseries for growing rootstock, but black walnut trees are not grown commercially for edible nuts because they are not as good to eat as the English walnut. The eastern black walnut is grown for edible nuts in the Midwestern United States.

California produces 99% percent of all US English walnuts, primarily in the San Joaquin and Sacramento valleys, but also along the Central and Northern Coasts and in the Sierra Foothills. It also supplies three quarters of the world trade. Over 30 different cultivars of the English walnut have been developed for their shell characteristics, walnut meat content, pest tolerance, and harvest time. A cultivar is a plant or grouping of plants selected for desirable characteristics that can be maintained by propagation. The five primary cultivars grown are Chandler, Howard, Hartley, Serr, and Tulare. Walnut trees thrive in fertile, deep, well-drained soil. They begin to bear fruit four to five years after being planted and can continue to grow and bear fruit for a century or more.

Walnuts are harvested using mechanical shakers that shake the nut to the ground during harvest time in September through November. Machines sweep the fallen walnuts into rows, and then the nuts are collected and taken to a processing plant where they are dried, sorted, and cleaned. Walnuts may be sold with their shells intact (“inshell”) or removed (“shelled”). Shelled walnuts are sold whole, in halves, or in pieces of various sizes.

Interest Approach – Engagement

Inform your students that you will give them a series of "clues." Tell them to use the clues to guess the item you are thinking of.

What are they? Walnuts!

In this lesson students will learn about the life cycle of a walnut tree and how farmers grow walnuts.


  1. Distribute the story, Walnut Wonderland to each student.
  2. Read the story as a class, pausing during each section to discuss the content.
  3. Write key vocabulary words on the board and discuss the definition as it pertains to agriculture.
  4. Pass out student worksheets for reading comprehension and vocabulary. Go through the first two questions together as a class, and then have students complete the rest of the questions on their own.
  5. After students have completed their activity sheets, instruct them to pair up and compare answers with a partner. Call on groups around the room to check for accuracy.

Concept Elaboration and Evaluation: 

After conducting these activities, review and summarize the following key concepts:

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!


Enriching Activities

Suggested Companion Resources


A partnership project of California Walnut Board and California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom



Robin Satnick

Organization Affiliation

California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom