National Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix
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K - 2
In this lesson students will learn the function of plant stems and identify edible stems belonging to certain plants.
- Plant Cards
- Butcher paper or chart paper
- Food coloring
- Celery stalks
- Writing Worksheet
- Tops and Bottoms written by Janet Stevens
Essential Files (maps, charts, pictures, or documents)
agriculture: the science and business of growing crops and raising livestock
commodity: fruits, vegetables, nuts, or grains, as a unit that are bought or sold
edible: something that can be eaten
farm: a piece of land where crops or animals are raised
phloem: specialized plant cells that transport food throughout the plant
stem: the main supportive part of a plant; part of the transport system carrying water from the roots and food produced during photosynthesis to other parts of the plant
tuber: the short, thickened, fleshy part of an underground stem, which can grow new shoots
xylem: specialized plant cells that transport water throughout the plant
Did you know? (Ag Facts)
- A cactus can hold a lot of water in its stems. Even though this liquid is not pure water it was known to save people's lives when traveling through the desert.1
- We normally call the sharp spikes located on the stem of a rose bush "thorns." However, these sometimes painful spikes are technically called "prickles."2
- Plants with stems are called vascular plants because they contain tissue that move water and minerals from the roots to the leaves to help it grow.3
Background Agricultural Connections
Interest Approach – Engagement
- Draw a sketch of a plant on the board. Include the roots, leaves, and a flower. Leave the area for the stem blank and ask the students what is missing (stem).
- Ask them if they think a plant could live without its stem. Why or why not?
- Display the four Plant Cards and have them point out the stem. Remember to point out the actual potato in its picture as the stem.
- Tell your students that today they will be learning about plant stems.
Activity 1: Function of Stems
- Demonstrate the function of the stem (vascular tubes that carry water and nutrients) by putting a stalk of celery with celery leaves in a jar of water with food coloring.
- Examine the celery in food coloring after a day or two to see how the stalk and leaves have changed color as a result of the xylem carrying the food coloring and water up the stem.
- Note: As explained in the Background Agricultural Connections section of this lesson, celery is not scientifically classified as a stem. However, it is used in this step of the lesson because it is the most visual way to illustrate the function of the xylem and phloem.
- Discuss the functions of the stem as a whole:
- Supports plants
- Transports water, food, and nutrients throughout the plant
- Connects the leaves to the roots
- Have students go outside and observe a variety of stems on campus. Clarify with students whether or not you want them to pick the stems that they will be observing or simply observe them without picking the plant.
- Discover and discuss that stems come in all shapes and sizes and that many are not edible.
- Give each student the Writing Worksheet and ask them to draw and write a paragraph about their favorite plant stem based on what they observed.
- Display their work in the classroom to use as a reference for the next activity.
Activity 2: Stems We Eat
- Ask your students to brainstorm types of edible stems that we eat. (asparagus is a good example. Broccoli and cauliflower also have a stem below the floret) Give clues or show pictures as needed.
- Teach your students that there are actually two kinds of stems. Some grow above ground and other types of stems grow below ground. They are called tubers.
- For more understanding, read the book Tops and Bottoms written by Janet Stevens. If the school library does not have a copy, a read aloud can be used online. Tell the students that this book is about a rabbit and a bear who decided to grow plants in a vegetable garden.
- During the reading, stop and ask the students to identify the stems of several plants and determine whether it is above or below the surface of the soil.
- At the conclusion of the book, ask the students:
- "What are some plants that have good bottoms or stems to eat?" (white potatoes and sweet potatoes)
- "What are some plants that have good tops or stems to eat?" (asparagus and broccoli)
- "How is the hare similar to farmers who grow plants that we eat?" (The hare knows about the different parts of a plant and which parts we can eat. He also knows how they should be grown and harvested.)
- "What important lesson can we learn from the Bear about harvesting vegetables to eat?" (The bear is not knowledgeable about plant parts and the book indicates his laziness. If farmers are lazy like the bear then they will harvest little food for us to eat.)
- Ask the students to read their sentences from the Writing Worksheet to a partner and call on each student to share one thing with the class that their partner wrote about their favorite plant stem.
Concept Elaboration and Evaluation
After conducting this activity, review and summarize the following key concepts:
- Stems of certain plants are edible.
- Stems come in all shapes and sizes.
- Farmers must be knowledgeable about the plants they grow and harvest.
- Eating stems such as asparagus, broccoli, and cauliflower are a healthy snack.
- This lesson incorporates hands-on activities. Kinesthetic learning events provide an excellent learning environment for the English learner.
- Demonstrate how to set up the experiment prior to allowing students to carry out their own experiments. ELL students will benefit from observing the procedures before they get started.
Do a class survey and calculate the percentage of students who prefer each type of broccoli topping.
Read the book Sugarbush Spring by Martha Wilson Chall. In this book students will learn that the maple which makes the syrup for their pancakes is collected from the trunk (stem) of a maple tree.
Stem potluck: In advance, ask students to bring tasty toppings to class. Examples include peanut butter, cheeses, hummus, dressing, and more. Provide stems such as asparagus, broccoli, or cauliflower for students to taste along with their toppings. Review with students by pointing out which portion of the broccoli or cauliflower is the stem. Discuss food allergies and wash hands before this activity. Next, make a bar-graph on the board that shows which toppings were most popular among the students.
Suggested Companion Resources
- How Food gets from Farms to Store Shelves (Book)
- Plants Feed Me (Book)
- Tops & Bottoms (Book)
- When Vegetables Go Bad (Book)
Agricultural Literacy Outcomes
Culture, Society, Economy & Geography
- Discuss what a farmer does (T5.K-2.a)
Plants and Animals for Food, Fiber & Energy
- Identify examples of feed/food products eaten by animals and people (T2.K-2.c)
Education Content Standards
Health Standard 7: Demonstrate the ability to practice health-enhancing behaviors and avoid or reduce health risks.
7.2.1Demonstrate healthy practices and behaviors to maintain or improve personal health.
2-LS4: Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity
2-LS4-1Make observations of plants and animals to compare the diversity of life in different habitats.
Common Core Connections
Reading: Anchor Standards
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.4Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.7Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.
Speaking and Listening: Anchor Standards
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.1Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
Language: Anchor Standards
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.6Acquire and use accurately a range of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when encountering an unknown term important to comprehension or expression.
National Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix (2013) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.