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Eat Your Plants!

Grade Level: 3-5

Lesson Overview:

This lesson focuses on the importance of plant material for making food for humans and other animals. Students will discover that many foods we eat on a daily basis come from different parts of plants. Students will research agriculture facts from their state and others, and learn the dangers of certain plants to humans and animals. Finally, students will plan a garden in which they will grow a different plant for each part of a plant that can be eaten.

Learning Objectives:

Students will be able to:

  • Identify familiar foods and the edible plant materials in them as being a root, stem, leaves, fruit, flower, or stem
  • Plan a healthy meal using the Food Pyramid
  • Plan a garden that produces food from different plant parts
  • Optional: Write to inform about dangerous or poisonous plants (safety objective)

Time Frame: Three sessions

  • Session 1: Engage, Explore, Explain (60 minutes)
  • Session 2: Extend (45 minutes, in computer lab)
  • Session 3: Explain and Evaluate (30 minutes)

Materials for the teacher:

  • Several examples of food items made from specific parts of plants for students to explore, or assign students to bring in a food item based from a plant a few days before the lesson (safety note: check for food allergies before allowing any food into the classroom for investigation)
  • Chalkboard or Whiteboard

Materials for students:

Classroom Activities:

Session 1

  1. On the board, make a list of all of the food items you ate from the previous day for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Ask students to help you identify and discuss which items on your list came directly from a plant. Next, ask students to repeat the activity with their own food lists of what they ate the previous day for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
  2. Ask students if they know any food items that can be easily grown in a backyard garden in your area in a given season.
  3. Write the following words on the board: ROOTS, LEAVES, SEEDS, STEM, FRUIT, FLOWER. Ask students if all of the items on the board can be eaten by a human or animal.
  1. Either ask students to bring in a food item from a plant, or bring in some for demonstration. Here are some suggestions: apple, banana, pumpkin, corn, sunflower seed, lettuce, carrot, celery, potato, green beans, onion, basil, etc.
  2. Put food items in various locations around the room and allow students a few minutes to rotate to the various examples to explore the items, and try to figure out which items belong to each of the categories written on the board.
  3. In science journals, students should write the name of the food item, which part of a plant they think it comes from, and a prediction about whether they think it can grow in their region.
  1. Provide students with a graphic organizer or chart with the six main categories from the exploration (ROOTS, LEAVES, SEEDS, STEM, FRUIT, FLOWER). Put students in small groups and ask students to list as many food examples as they can for each plant part. Ask each group to discuss how people and animals use different parts of plants for food. Then create a class chart together that compiles the edible food items for each category. Discuss the chart as a whole class. What did students already know? What did they learn? What were they surprised to find out?
  2. Many students may not know how many edible plants can be found in their lawns and backyards. Provide students with the following five true and false questions, either by writing them on the board or reading them aloud. Then, print out the article from the following website to have students confirm or refute their original guesses: http://ecosalon.com/foraging-for-food/#
    1. You can eat all only the flowers of a dandelion.
    2. Wild Mushrooms are edible and all are safe to eat.
    3. Wild rice is a great source of protein and all parts are edible.
    4. Wild leeks are edible and resemble onions.
    5. Yucca petals and fruit can be eaten raw.

Session 2

  1. Direct students to the explore the following websites:
    1. Students can take a quiz on their knowledge of agriculture and compare their answers with a partner. http://www.agclassroom.org/kids/agknow.htm
    2. Students can choose a state to learn about agricultural facts, and compare those facts to those of your state. Have students use comparison circles to document the similarities and differences. http://www.agclassroom.org/kids/ag_facts.htm
    3. Students can play the following game to learn more about the food pyramid and help plan healthy meals to get energy. http://www.mypyramid.gov/kids/kids_game.html#
  2. Optional: Allow students to use the following website to research one poisonous or dangerous plant to humans or animals. http://www.ansci.cornell.edu/plants/index.html Students can use a computer program such as Microsoft PowerPoint or Publisher to create an informational flyer warning of the plant’s dangers.
  3. Students can search for a recipe using dandelions, wild mushrooms, rice, leeks or yucca or any other edible plant.

Session 3

  1. Ask students to pretend they are planting a backyard garden. Using the provided worksheet as a resource, students should select at least 4 plants to grow in their garden, each of which should yield food from a different part of the plant.
  2. Evaluate students based on the following criteria:
    1. Did the student select four different plants?
    2. Did the student explain reasons for their selections?
    3. Did the student explain how this garden will help the environment?

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National Science Education Standards Addressed:

All animals depend on plants. Some animals eat plants for food. Other animals eat animals that eat the plants.
Nutrition is essential to health. Students should understand how the body uses food and how various foods contribute to health. Recommendations for good nutrition include eating a variety of foods, eating less sugar, and eating less fat.

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