National Agriculture in the Classroom

Agriculture Counts

Grade Level(s)

K - 2

Estimated Time

1.5 hours


Students read a story about our nation's first survey of agriculture, discuss reasons for counting things, and gain practice by sorting and counting a variety of objects related to agriculture.


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


agriculture: the science or occupation of cultivating the soil, producing crops, and raising livestock.

census: an official count or survey of a population, typically recording various details of individuals.

counting: to check over a group of items one by one to determine the total number in all

soybeans: a widely cultivated plant of the pea family which produces edible seeds used in variety of foods and animal feeds as a replacement for animal protein.

Interest Approach – Engagement

Show a soybean plant to the class. Call your local Farm Bureau office and ask for names of farmers that could provide you with a few soybean plants before its harvested in the fall. Allow each student to pick a bean pod from the plant. Explain that soybeans are one of most versatile crops grown in the world. Farmers in the United States grow more soybeans than farmers in any other country. Soybeans are used in food products, such as chocolate, breads, cooking oils, and baby foods.

Have a group discussion on how the bean pod feels. Have students open their pod, take out the beans and feel them. How do the beans feel compared to the pod? How many beans were in the pod? Most will answer “three” since this is the number of soybeans normally stored in a pod. Did any pod have less than three beans? Did any pod have more than three beans? Take up the beans by having students place them, one at a time, into a zip sealed bag and count as they place their beans in the bag. The first person will count “one, two, three” and the next person will count “four, five, six.” This cumulative count will continue until all students have placed their beans in the bag. Tell the students they will be counting more items to conduct their own agriculture census.

Alternative: If you are unable to obtain a soybean plant with the pods, edamame can be used as an alternative. Edamame is an immature soybean harvested before it hardens. These delicious bright green soybeans have become quite popular in the American cuisine culture and can be purchased at the grocery store shelled or in the pod, fresh or frozen. They would serve as a tasty snack for students to try once the lesson plan has been delivered. Note that the variety of soybean used for edamame typically has two beans per pod. In contrast, the varieties of soybean grown commercially has three beans per pod.

Did you know? (Ag Facts)

Background - Agricultural Connections

Do you remember when you first learned to count? For most people, counting is one of the first things their parents taught them. So if you’re  like most people, you’ve been counting things almost as long as you’ve been talking.

Why do we count things? What kinds of things do we count? In ancient times people used tokens made from clay to keep count of things. If they wanted to remember how many sheep they had, they would gather as many of the tokens as they had sheep and place them in a safe place. Over time, people began to keep count by making marks on the walls of caves to designate numbers. Some people think this was the first writing.

Why would ancient people need to remember how many sheep they had? They might need to keep track of them, so they would know if any had wandered off that they should go look for.

What are some of the things that you count? Maybe your mom tells you that you can have three cookies. Or maybe you know you have 25 baseball cards and want to make sure your little brother didn’t take any. Or maybe you know it costs 75 cents to buy a can of pop, and you need to know if you have enough money before you go to the store.

Counting is a very important part of all of our lives. The people who grow our food have to count very closely and keep very good records. They have to know how many acres to plant. They need to know how much seed and fertilizer to use. And they need to know how many bushels of wheat or soybeans or peanuts their fields produced during the year. They keep careful records, so they can make sure they are earning enough money to pay their expenses. Those who raise animals need to know how many offspring their animals produce, so they will know how much food to buy and how many animals to sell. They need to know how much money they can expect to make, so they can plan for the coming year. Counting is a very important part of the farmer’s job.

Our government needs to keep a good count of crops and farm animals, so they know what kind of help the farmers need to make sure we have enough food to eat. The US Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service is the government agency responsible for keeping count.


Activity 1: Agricultural Census

  1. Ask students why they count things. What kinds of things do they count? Write answers on the chalkboard.
  2. Discuss background material, and read the story Arthur Young and the President.
  3. Show the Arthur Young and the President PowerPoint as a visual to supplement the reading of the story.
  4. Tell students they will be conducting their own agricultural census. Divide them into groups of four or five. Provide each group with a plate of animal crackers and each student with a copy of the My Census of Agriculture: Livestock activity sheet.
  5. Show students how to use tally marks to keep count. Explain that this is similar to the way ancient people kept count by drawing pictures on the walls of caves.
  6. Have students draw pictures of the different animal crackers in separate columns on their activity sheets. Then have students sort the animal crackers and use the tally marks in the appropriate columns to count them.
  7. Have students translate their tally marks into numbers, and ask one person from each group to make a “livestock report” by reading aloud the number of each animal counted.
  8. Draw a classroom chart on the chalkboard, and record the data as the groups report it.
  9. Repeat the process with the snack mix and the My Census of Agriculture: Crops activity sheet. Explain to students that the different ingredients in the mix represent different crops. Show students what each ingredient represents, and have them write the names of the different crops in the “Name of Crop” column on the activity sheet. Have students sort, count, record, and report, as in steps five through seven.
  10. Provide extra snack mix and animal crackers for students to eat.

Activity 2: Sequential Order with Soybeans

  1. Using the soybeans or the edamame from the Interest Approach/Motivator activity, prepare two sets of bags with various numbers of soybeans in each bag.
  2. Each set of bags should have the same number of soybeans. For example, you could have a set of 10 bags with beans 1 through 10 placed in each bag. The second set of 10 bags should be the same; however to differentiate between the two sets, place a colored dot on the outside of each bag. The first set could have blue dots and the second set would have green dots.
  3. Depending on the readiness of the students, the bags could also have sets of beans from 10 - 19, or 20 - 29, etc..
  4. Give each student one of the bags. Tell them it is very important to keep their bags zipped at all times.
  5. Ask, What's inside your bag? Verify that it is soybeans. Remind the students that soybeans are a major export in the United States and have many uses. Review their uses listed in the Interest Approach/Motivator activity.
  6. Next, have the students find all of their classmates with the same color dot on their bag and then organize themselves in a straight line in sequential order from least to greatest according to the number of soybeans they have in their bags. Allow talking the first time the class completes this activity.
  7. Throw the bags in a box. Redistribute the bags.
  8. Have the students organize themselves in their same colored groups in a straight line, from greatest to least, using NONVERBAL communication only.
  9. Take up the bags and ask the students which activity was the most difficult. Ask them why it is important to count items and arrange them in sequential order? Why is it important for farmers to count things found on their farm?

Concept Elaboration and Evaluation

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

Enriching Activities

Suggested Companion Resources




Utah Agriculture in the Classroom

Organization Affiliation

Utah Agriculture in the Classroom