Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix
In this lesson students will observe various types of seed, be introduced to the many uses of seeds, taste edible seeds, and make a seed mosaic.
Interest Approach — Engagement:
- Apple, orange, cucumber, watermelon and squash
- Knife for cutting fruit and vegetables
Activity 1: Seed Observation and Taste Testing
- Four different edible seeds for each student
- Examples: pumpkin seeds, edamame (immature, green soybeans), sunflower seeds, kidney beans, navy beans, pinto beans
- Seed Observation and Taste Testing Chart
- Rulers for each student
- The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle
Activity 2: Seed Mosaic
- A wide variety of dried seeds such as beans, sunflower seeds, peas, rice, caraway, or millet for each group of students. You can buy birdseed mix or bags of beans in the soup section of your grocery store.
- Poster board or cardboard for each student
- Selected seed stories such as Which Seed is This? by Lisa Amstutz, Seeds by Vijaya Bodach, Spot the Difference: Seeds by Charlotte Guillain, and A Packet of Seeds by Deborah Hopkinson.
- One egg carton for each group of students
Essential File (map, chart, picture, or document)
cotyledons: an embryonic leaf in seed-bearing plants, one or more of which are the first leaves to appear from a germinating seed
germinate: begin to grow and put out shoots from a seed
grain: a small hard seed of a cereal plant such as wheat or rice
legume: a seed, pod, or other edible part of a leguminous plant used as food
photosynthesis: the process by which green plants use sunlight to synthesize foods from carbon dioxide and water and generates oxygen as a byproduct
seed: the part of a flowering plant that contains an embryo within its protective coat and a stored food supply
Did You Know? (Ag Facts)
- Varying conditions such as temperature, moisture, air, and light must be correct in order for seeds to germinate.1
- The United States is the largest seed market in the world.2
- Farmers are required to purchase their seeds for planting each year to attain the best crop yields. This practice can be costly.3
- Seeds can remain dormant (asleep) until its placed in the correct conditions such as water and soil.1
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:
- Why People Need Plants
- Dig 'Em Up
- Snappy Stems
- Luscious Leaves
- Fabulous Flowers
- Freshest Fruits
- Supreme Seeds
- Edible Plant Game
- Eat 'Em Up
Seeds are important to the life of a plant because they allow for growth and reproduction. However, student's experience for eating fruits and vegetables that contain seeds would be required to help them gain an understanding of their various uses. Seeds are an important part of the agricultural plant production process because farmers plant seeds for most crops in the spring such as wheat, corn, and oats. These seeds germinate or sprout and then grow throughout the summer with the correct amount of moisture, sunlight and soil. In the fall the mature plant produces grain, a cultivated seed harvested for food such as wheat, soybeans, rice, oats and corn. These seeds are used in a variety of ways depending on the crop in addition to being used as food for livestock animals and humans.
Plants produce seeds so their species will continue to exist in nature. The seeds are the storehouse for the beginning of a plant because it supplies the plant with needed nutrients to grow. Each seed contains a tiny plant embryo with one or two cotyledons or seed leafs, which supply the seed with energy and materials for growth until the young plant grows its first true leaves. At this stage it will make food for itself through a process called photosynthesis while using water, carbon dioxide, and sunlight. Without seeds, humans would not have essential products such as food, fiber, fuel, and by-products.
Seeds provide nourishment to people all over the world. Corn, oats, rice, and wheat seeds are known as cereal grains and are part of the grains food group. Whole grains are an important source of dietary fiber, which is important for proper bowel function and may lower the risk for heart disease and obesity. Grains are also a source of B vitamins, which help the body release energy from the food that we eat.
Edible seeds, known as legumes, include peanuts, peas, and beans. Other edible seeds include nuts, such as walnuts, almonds, pistachios, and pecans. These nuts have protein and are part of the protein food group. Proteins are an important part of our diet because they serve as building blocks for muscle, cartilage, bones, blood, and skin.
Livestock producers that raise animals for meat consumption such as beef cattle, chickens, turkeys, and hogs often use feed grains such as corn and soybean meal for the base of their animal feed. These grains provide the animal with a high-protein diet needed for growth. The major feed grains in the United States include corn, sorghum, barley, and oats. Corn accounts for more than 95% of total feed grain production and use.
Interest Approach - Engagement
- Display a wide variety of food items to include; apple, orange, cucumber, watermelon, and squash.
- Ask the following questions.
- "What would we see if we cut open each food item and looked inside?" (seeds)
- "Do we usually eat these seeds when eating the fruit or vegetable?" (sometimes)
- Cut open each food item and display the seeds. Ask the following questions.
- "What are these?"
- "Where do you think seeds come from?"
- "Why don't they all look the same?"
- "What are they used for?"
- "Can we eat seeds?"
- "Do farmers use seeds on their farms? How?"
- Record student's responses on your whiteboard or poster paper. Use the student responses to explain that you have displayed examples of seeds. Seeds are produced by a plant once it is fully grown. Seeds have many purposes and some we enjoy eating like sunflower seeds, edamame (immature, green soybeans), or pumpkin seeds. However some seeds are used for planting by farmers and we don't eat them, but we eat the products they produce such as bread made from wheat.
- Tell the students that they will be learning about the uses of seeds.
Activity 1: Seed Observation and Taste Testing
- Refer the students back to their responses from the questions in the Interest Approach—Engagement. Use the responses to explain that seeds have many uses and purposes including:
- Growing New Plants - Seeds allow plants to reproduce. (green beans, peas, pumpkins, cucumbers)
- Oil - Some seeds are crushed and used to make oil. (soybeans, peanuts, rape seed, sunflower seed)
- Animal Feed - Some seeds are ground into “meal” for animals. (corn, sorghum, oats, barley)
- Food - Some seeds are eaten whole by humans (peanut, sunflower, sesame, flax seeds)
- Fuel - Some seeds are processed into fuels like ethanol and biodiesel. (soybeans, safflower, sunflower, rape seed)
- Show the students your seed samples once again. If you purchased seeds that can be grown in your area, tell students that those seeds are grown by local farmers and explain what crops they produce.
- As students observe the seeds, help them realize that plants do not all look the same. Seeds also are different in appearance and use.
- Tell the students that today they will investigate four different types of seeds and make observations about their appearance and how they taste. (sunflower, edamame (soybean seed), pumpkin, and pinto bean).
- Hand out the Seed Observation and Taste Testing Chart. Use a sample seed to model how to complete each column. For example: Using a corn kernel:
- Size – use a ruler to measure the corn kernel to the nearest cm
- Color – golden color with a white tip
- Texture – smooth but sharp at the point
- Smell – dusty, earth smell similar to dirt
- Taste – too hard to taste! Assure students that all seeds they will be using will be safe to eat.
- Which seed? Instruct students to make their best guess or hypothesis at which plant each seed is from. Their choices are listed at the top of the chart.
- If you have enough rulers, hand out one to each student or have them share rulers.
- Hand out the seeds one at a time to each student. Have the students place the first seed in the box on their chart that is labeled “seed 1”. Hand out the second seed and instruct the students to place it in the box labeled “seed 2”. Continue for seed 3 and 4.
- Once everyone has the seeds in the appropriate box, tell the students to begin taking their observations and completing the chart. Assist students as needed.
- Ask students to share their hypothesis, or educated guess regarding the seed identifications. Share the actual results and compare student guesses. Help the students understand that a seed is the first stage of a plant's life cycle and when it grows into an adult the plant will produce more seeds.
- Review the purpose of seeds with the students as listed above. (plant reproduction, food for animals and humans, oil, and fuel)
- If available, read the book The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle to support the student's knowledge.
Activity 2: Seed Mosaic
- Place a wide variety of seeds into the compartments of the egg cartons. Distribute one filled egg carton to each group of four students.
- Provide time for the students to examine the seeds. As a class discuss the similarities and differences between the seeds. Sort them into piles.
- Ask the following questions.
- Which seeds do people eat?
- Which seeds do birds or other animals eat?
- Discuss the function of seeds as stated taught in Activity One.
- Read selected stories about different seeds such as Which Seed is This? by Lisa Amstutz, Seeds by Vijaya Bodach, Spot the Difference: Seeds by Charlotte Guillain, and A Packet of Seeds by Deborah Hopkinson.
- Have each student make a seed mosaic as follows:
- Have each student sketch a simple picture or design on posterboard or cardboard. Ideas include basic outlines of fish, tractors, cars, birds, pears, trees, and more.
- After giving students a demonstration of how they can glue seeds on their poster board to create different designs, have students create their own colorful display.
- Display the mosaics in the classroom, hallway, and offices.
Concept Elaboration and Evaluation:
At the conclusion of this activity, review and summarize the following key concepts:
- Seeds come in various shapes and sizes.
- Seeds have many functions, including plant reproduction, a common food source for humans, and a base for livestock feed.
- Examples of seeds we eat include sunflower seeds, beans, corn, etc.
- Farmers grow plants with seeds.
- Use birdseed or feed grains in a classification activity and discuss the different seeds that are fed to livestock.
- Model the Think, Pair, Share method: Tell students to ask a partner, “Name a type of seed that people eat.” Their partner should then respond, “People eat sunflower seeds.”
- Provide a variety of seeds and their name labels for display.
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Have the students examine a mature sunflower. Instruct the students to estimate the number of seeds in the sunflower, then count the seeds as they remove them. Roast the seeds and enjoy eating them.
Have students save seeds from fruits and vegetables they eat. Have students draw a picture of the fruit or vegetable and then glue the seeds onto the paper to form an outline of the drawing. Bind the samples together to make a class seed book.
Organize a “Seeds for Lunch” day. Each dish must contain edible seeds. Examples include corn bread, peanut butter and jam sandwiches, rice pudding, granola, burritos, popcorn balls, banana-nut bread, chocolate covered raisins, and corn on the cob.
Have the students examine various ways seeds promote their own dispersal. For example, some seeds get caught in animal fur while others are carried by the wind. Seeds, such as coconuts and cranberries, float, some get dispersed in animal scat, and others spread by exploding.
- Activity 1 authored by Sue Knott and provided by Minnesota Agriculture in the Classroom
- Activity 2 provided by California Foundation for Agriculture in the classroom. Funding provided by a grant from the Network for a Healthy California.
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