To help students build an understanding of where food comes from and the people involved in the food production process.
This lesson uses a book called Grow! Raise! Catch! How We Get Our Food by Shelley Rotner. This book was one of the finalists of the 2017 AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books.
During the elementary school years, it is important for students to begin to explore the relationships between people and our environment and the steps involved in certain processes. This is also the time that students develop an understanding about how to learn from books: by beginning to identify the purpose of the text and then answering questions, such as who, what, when, where, why, and how. These guiding questions can help students gain a deeper understanding of where our food comes from, and the first step it takes on the path from the point of origin (the fields or the ocean) to our grocery stores and our homes.
Grow! Raise! Catch! How We Get Our Food describes, in general terms, where food comes from. While the entire process of how food gets from the earth to the table is complex and not described in detail, the book does use vivid photographs to illustrate foods in their natural environment, such as lettuce growing in a field, fish being caught from the ocean, and cattle grazing on a farm. The book also shows images of the people—farmers and fishermen—who grow, raise, or catch the food.
Some students might think that food comes from a grocery store. Use this opportunity to explain that the store is where most people purchase their food, but that is not where it comes from. You may want to use the example of a flower. Ask them if they have ever seen a vase with flowers, or flowers in a bouquet at a market. Ask them if the flower grows in the vase. Then ask them to think about where flowers do grow. Help students come to the conclusion that flowers grow in the ground. Then relate this understanding to how food comes from somewhere else before we find it in our homes or supermarkets, just like flowers do.
This book helps students make connections between people and their environment. An opening discussion will help students begin to consider where foods come from. Then, to complete the activity, students should read the book and take notes about where different foods come from and who is involved in the process. They will then extend on this activity to explore how some plants grow and discover the steps between where a food comes from and how it ultimately arrives in the supermarket and on our tables.
Ideas in this lesson are also related to concepts found in these Common Core State Standards:
Ask and answer such questions as who, what, where, when, why, and how to demonstrate understanding of key details in a text.
Identify the main topic of a multiparagraph text as well as the focus of specific paragraphs within the text.
Describe the connection between a series of historical events, scientific ideas or concepts, or steps in technical procedures in a text.
Identify the main purpose of a text, including what the author wants to answer, explain, or describe.
Explain how specific images (e.g., a diagram showing how a machine works) contribute to and clarify a text.
Describe how reasons support specific points the author makes in a text.
If possible you should get one or more classroom copies of Grow! Raise! Catch! How We Get Our Food by Shelley Rotner.
Print out the student activity sheets ahead of time. Gather strawberries, apples, a toy or picture of a fish (or other meat product), and milk or yogurt to bring to class. Refer to the Grow! Raise! Catch! teacher sheet for setup instructions. If you choose to complete the Plant Investigation activity in the Development section, prepare the materials ahead of time.
Begin the lesson by reviewing with students how they should go about asking and answering these questions when reading: who, what, when, where, why, and how. Make sure students understand that they should keep these questions in mind to help them look for and understand key details in a text.
Then set up on the table the different food items (or substitute food items) you’ve prepared. Give students the Where Does This Food Come From? student sheet. Divide students into groups of two or three and ask each group to complete the student sheet by writing down the name of each food and where they think it came from. Answers may vary, and several answers may be considered correct. For example, a student might write down that a strawberry comes from the earth or from a plant. Either response should be considered correct.
Once students have completed as much of the worksheet as they can, bring everyone back together for a discussion using questions like these:
- Where does all food come from?
- What kinds of foods grow from the ground?
- What kind of foods come from oceans or lakes?
- What kinds of foods come from farms?
- Why do we need to eat?
- (It comes from the earth.)
- (Fruits and vegetables are examples of foods that grow from the ground.)
- (Foods that come from the oceans or lakes include fish, lobster, and clams.)
- (Some examples are dairy, beef, and chicken.)
- (We need to eat because we get hungry, for energy, and for nutrients.)
In this part of the lesson, you should do a class reading of Grow! Raise! Catch! How We Get Our Food, by Shelley Rotner. Before reading, engage the class in a discussion on what they think the book will be about. Flip through the book, showing students the images throughout.
Unless you have advanced readers in your class, you will likely read the book aloud to them. To keep them involved, focus on what information they already know and what information surprised them. Students can take notes during the reading.
You can lead the discussion by asking questions like these:
- What does the cover illustration show?
- What do you think the book will be about?
- What does it mean when something is grown?
- What does it mean to catch something?
- What does it mean to raise something?
- Where do fruits and vegetables come from?
- Where do we get our fish?
- When do you pick fruits and vegetables?
- How do you take care of plants while they’re growing?
- Why do we need food?
- Were you surprised by any information in the book?
- (It shows kids eating, a fisherman child, and farms.)
- (Answers may vary. Encourage students to explain their answers.)
- (It means that it comes from the ground. It is a plant.)
- (It is in the wild and needs to be captured.)
- (It is brought up on a farm.)
- (They grow in the ground.)
- (They are caught in the ocean.)
- (They are picked during harvest time, which varies based on the fruit and vegetable.)
- (You water them and give them sunlight.)
- (We need food for nutrition and energy and to help us grow.)
- (Answers may vary. Encourage students to explain their answers.)
Once you’ve finished going over the book with your students, ask them to explain how we get different kinds of food using information from the book. Ask them to redefine the words “grow,” “raise,” and “catch.” Then, use the opportunity to have students put different foods into categories based on how we get them. Develop a three-column list on a chalkboard or whiteboard, categorizing foods by the headings, “Grow!” “Raise!” and “Catch!” Suggest different foods (rice, potatoes, salmon, apples) and have students share in which category the food belongs. This will help students answer the question of “how” we get our food.
The first part of the lesson addressed answering “what,” “where,” “why,” and “how” questions. The final part will focus on the “who” question. Distribute the Who Do We Thank For Our Food? student sheet. Students can work independently or with a partner. During this activity, students will consider all the people involved in the food production process. After they complete the student sheet, discuss the roles people from different professions play in this process.
If students are able to move through the worksheets quickly, you may elect to grow a seed as a class. Students can follow the instructions on the Plant Investigation page from the Science NetLinks Science of Spring resource. Students can take turns watering the plant. As a class, make observations as the seed grows. You may also have students draw or photograph the plant daily or every other day and reflect on how fast it grows, the different phases, and how it changes.
To assess student understanding, students should prepare a poster or hand-drawn booklet. Students should refer to the Grow! Raise! Catch! student sheet for more detailed instructions and for an example of what their pamphlet or poster should look like.
The poster or booklet should explore how a food of their choosing gets from farm to table. It should answer the questions “Who,” “What,“ “Where,” “Why,” “When,” and “How” in relation to their food. Students should then present their poster or booklet to the class. Ensure that students select a food item that is minimally processed so the information is easily attainable.
Distribute the Grow! Raise! Catch! Student Checklist to students that they can use to ensure they included the elements they need. You may also use this checklist to assess student work.
You can extend the ideas in this lesson by leading your students through these Science NetLinks lessons:
Often, we use food that is farmed or raised to make something else. Students can review The Grain Chain to explore how food goes from wheat that is grown to bread or other things we love to eat.
The lesson plan Lettuce Be Healthy, from KidsGardening, can be used as a starting point for setting up a class vegetable garden, providing firsthand experience on how to grow food.
The lesson plan Eat a Rainbow, also from KidsGardening, can be used to help teach students about the vital nutrients that come from different foods.