California Agriculture in the Classroom

Why People Need Plants

Grade Level(s)

K - 2

Estimated Time

50 minutes

Purpose

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.

Materials

For each group of 3-4 students:

For each student:

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

Vocabulary

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:

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

  1. Ask students to list three items you use every day.
  2. 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.
  3. In this lesson students will learn the importance of plants and that people depend upon plants for food, fiber, shelter, fuel, and clean air.

Procedures

Activity 1:

  1. 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.
  2. 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" worksheet to make a list of everything they see that comes from a plant.

Activity 2:

  1. Organize students into groups of three or four.
  2. 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
    • Flower
    • Fruit
    • Maple syrup
    • Granulated sugar packet
    • Perfumed vegetable soap
    • Vegetable
    • Paper
    • Wooden object
  3. 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 worksheet, and fill out the appropriate spaces.
  4. 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:

Variation

Enriching Activities

Suggested Companion Resources

Sources/Credits

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

Author(s)

Shaney Emerson and Michelle Risso

Organization Affiliation

California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom