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Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix

Search Lesson Plans & Companion Resources

A Walnut Orchard Through the Seasons

Grade Level(s)

K - 2

Estimated Time

50 minutes


Students will gain an understanding of the changes that take place in a walnut orchard through the seasons by reading and discussing a story about a walnut farm and learning the meaning of important vocabulary words.


  • Story: Walnut Wonderland, 1 per student
  • Reading Activity Sheet: Walnut Wonderland, 1 per student
  • Enrichment Activity Sheets (optional)

Essential Files (maps, charts, pictures, or documents)


canopy: a shade or shelter that grows over something

consumer: a person who buys and uses goods

deciduous: during the fall every year, the leaves fall off the tree

dormant: a period of time when there is reduced activity or growth

fertile: producing vegetation or crops plentifully

harvest: the gathering of a crop

hull: the outer covering of a fruit or seed

orchard: a place where fruit or tree nuts are grown

pest: a plant or animal that can be harmful to other living things

pollinate: to place pollen on the female part of a flower

Did you know? (Ag Facts)

  • Walnuts are the oldest known tree food, dating back to 10,000 BC.1
  • There are more than 30 varieties of walnuts.1
  • Walnuts contain Omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, and vitamin E. They are a healthy treat.2

Background Agricultural Connections

Walnuts are one of the oldest tree foods known to humans and are good for snacking and cooking. The trees originated in ancient Persia (now known as Iran) where walnuts were reserved for royalty. These walnuts were transported to ports around the world by the English merchant marines and so the “Persian Walnut” came to be called the “English Walnut.” Walnuts were introduced to California by the Franciscan fathers who planted walnut trees in the 1700’s during the establishment of the missions. There are also types of walnut trees that are native to California called California black walnuts. The nuts of one type of black walnut, Northern California black, are used by nurseries for growing rootstock, but black walnut trees are not grown commercially for edible nuts because they are not as good to eat as the English walnut. The eastern black walnut is grown for edible nuts in the Midwestern United States.

California produces 99% percent of all US English walnuts, primarily in the San Joaquin and Sacramento valleys, but also along the Central and Northern Coasts and in the Sierra Foothills. It also supplies three quarters of the world trade. Over 30 different cultivars of the English walnut have been developed for their shell characteristics, walnut meat content, pest tolerance, and harvest time. A cultivar is a plant or grouping of plants selected for desirable characteristics that can be maintained by propagation. The five primary cultivars grown are Chandler, Howard, Hartley, Serr, and Tulare. Walnut trees thrive in fertile, deep, well-drained soil. They begin to bear fruit four to five years after being planted and can continue to grow and bear fruit for a century or more.

Walnuts are harvested using mechanical shakers that shake the nut to the ground during harvest time in September through November. Machines sweep the fallen walnuts into rows, and then the nuts are collected and taken to a processing plant where they are dried, sorted, and cleaned. Walnuts may be sold with their shells intact (“inshell”) or removed (“shelled”). Shelled walnuts are sold whole, in halves, or in pieces of various sizes.

Interest Approach – Engagement

Inform your students that you will give them a series of "clues." Tell them to use the clues to guess the item you are thinking of.

  • It is a type of food.
  • It grows on a tree.
  • It forms inside a very hard shell.
  • They are harvested once per year, usually in the fall.
  • They are used mostly in salads and desserts.
  • The state of California grows 99% of all that are grown in the United States.

What are they? Walnuts!

In this lesson students will learn about the life cycle of a walnut tree and how farmers grow walnuts.


  1. Distribute the story, Walnut Wonderland to each student.
  2. Read the story as a class, pausing during each section to discuss the content.
  3. Write key vocabulary words on the board and discuss the definition as it pertains to agriculture.
  4. Pass out student worksheets for reading comprehension and vocabulary. Go through the first two questions together as a class, and then have students complete the rest of the questions on their own.
  5. After students have completed their activity sheets, instruct them to pair up and compare answers with a partner. Call on groups around the room to check for accuracy.

Concept Elaboration and Evaluation: 

After conducting these activities, review and summarize the following key concepts:

  • Walnuts grow on trees.
  • California grows almost all of the walnuts grown in the United States.
  • Walnut farmers use machines to help them harvest walnuts.
  • Walnut trees bloom in the spring. Walnuts are harvested in the fall.
  • It's important to have good soil and plenty of water for the walnut trees to be healthy and produce walnuts.

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!


Enriching Activities

  • Visit a local walnut orchard on a field trip

  • Ask a walnut farmer to come to class and share what he or she does in the orchard.

  • Ask students to take a blank piece of construction paper (8” x 12”) and divide the paper into four sections. Ask the students to draw a walnut tree in each section to represent each season of the year.

Suggested Companion Resources

Agricultural Literacy Outcomes

Culture, Society, Economy & Geography

  • Identify plants and animals grown or raised locally that are used for food, clothing, shelter, and landscapes (T5.K-2.d)
  • Trace the sources of agricultural products (plant or animal) used daily (T5.K-2.f)

Science, Technology, Engineering & Math

  • Recognize and identify examples of simple tools and machines used in agricultural settings (T4.K-2.b)

Plants and Animals for Food, Fiber & Energy

  • Explain how farmers work with the lifecycle of plants and animals (planting/breeding) to harvest a crop (T2.K-2.a)

Agriculture and the Environment

  • Describe how farmers use land to grow crops and support livestock (T1.K-2.a)
  • Describe the importance of soil and water in raising crops and livestock (T1.K-2.b)
  • Provide examples of how weather patterns affect plant and animal growth for food (T1.K-2.d)

Education Content Standards


K-4 Geography Standard 11: The patterns and networks of economic interdependence on Earth's surface.

  • Objective 2
    Objective 2
    Some locations are better suited than others to provide certain goods and services.

K-4 Geography Standard 4: The physical and human characteristics of places.

  • Objective 1
    Objective 1
    Places are locations having distinctive characteristics that give them meaning and distinguish them from other locations.
  • Objective 2
    Objective 2
    Places have physical and human characteristics.

K-4 Geography Standard 5: That people create regions to interpret Earth's complexity.

  • Objective 1
    Objective 1
    Regions are areas of Earth's surface with unifying physical and/or human characteristics.


K-ESS2: Earth's Systems

  • K-ESS2-1
    Use and share observations of local weather conditions to describe patterns over time.

K-ESS3: Earth and Human Activity

  • K-ESS3-1
    Use a model to represent the relationship between the needs of different plants or animals (including humans) and the places they live.

K-LS1: From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes

  • K-LS1-1
    Use observations to describe patterns of what plants and animals (including humans) need to survive.

Common Core Connections

Reading: Anchor Standards

    Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
    Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.
    Analyze how and why individuals, events, or ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.
    Interpret 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.
    Analyze the structure of texts, including how specific sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text (e.g., a section, chapter, scene, or stanza) relate to each other and the whole.
    Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.
    Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.

Speaking and Listening: Anchor Standards

    Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.

Writing: Anchor Standards

    Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details and well-structured event sequences.
    Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.

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