nutrient: substance that provides nourishment essential for growth and life
macronutrient: a substance required in relatively large amounts by a living organism such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium in plants
micronutrient: a substance required in relatively small amounts by a living organism such as iron in plants
Did you know? (Ag Facts)
Potassium protects our plants!
Nitrogen is present in all living things including the human body and plants.
Phosphorus is used to make matches. In Greek, the word means "bearer of light."
Background Agricultural Connections
Interest Approach – Engagement
Ask students, "Did you know that people and plants BOTH need nutrients to grow and be healthy?"
Ask students, "Where do people obtain nutrients?" (Food) "Where do plants get nutrients?" (from the soil, air, and water)
Inform your students that they will be learning about the nutrients that plants need in order to grow and provide healthy food for our diet.
Ask students if they know why it is important to eat healthy foods. Explain that healthy foods supply our bodies with the nutrients they need for energy, growth, and repair. Ask students to help make a list of some healthy foods they can include in a meal or snack. Give an example of foods that are good sources of certain nutrients. For example, milk is a good source of calcium, oranges are a good source of vitamin C, and bananas are a good source of potassium.
Ask students if plants need food. Explain that plants, just like people, need food for energy, growth, and repair, but they do not eat food like people do. Instead, plants make their own food by capturing energy from sunlight to carry out a process called photosynthesis. Chlorophyll is the pigment inside leaves that gives them their green color and makes grass stains on your clothes. It helps plants absorb energy from the sun to make their own food.
Ask students to help you make a chart on the board of what plants need in order to make their own food. Write the words and draw the symbols for sun, water, and soil on the board. Next, draw a simple plant on the board and show its roots growing down into the soil. Explain that most of the nutrients a plant needs come from the soil. Plants get these soil nutrients when their roots absorb them along with water. Distribute the People and Plants Need Nutrients chart to each student. As a class, review the chart to discuss what nutrients are important to plants and people. Use the questions from the People and Plants Need Nutrients activity sheet as group work or individual assignments for each student.
Note: The plant nutrients shown in the chart are called macronutrients because plants use large amounts of these nutrients. Micronutrients are nutrients that are just as important for plant growth but are needed in much smaller amounts. Micronutrients include iron, manganese, chlorine, zinc, boron, molybdenum, copper, nickel, hydrogen, carbon, and oxygen.
Concept Elaboration and Evaluation:
After conducting these activities, review and summarize the following key concepts:
Plants require specific nutrients for healthy growth.
Nutrients for plants are acquired through natural resources such as the soil, water, and air.
Farmers grow and produce our food. They use science to grow healthy plants and preserve natural resources for continued use.
We welcome your feedback! Please take a minute to tell us how to make this lesson better or to give us a few gold stars!
The Educator’s Guide was funded by California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Fertilizer, Research, and Education Program (FREP) and developed by California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom.
Executive Director: Judy Culbertson Illustrator: Erik Davison Layout and Design: Nina Danner and Renee Thompson Copy Editor: Leah Rosasco Special Thanks to: Nutrients for Life Foundation, International Plant Nutrition Institute, Fertilizer Research and Education Program, and California Department of Food and Agriculture.
Shaney Emerson and Mary Pat Jones
California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom