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Curriculum Matrix

Lesson Plan

A Search for the Source (Grades 9-12)

Grade Level
9 - 12

In this lesson students will learn that agriculture provides nearly all of the products we rely on in any given day by participating in a relay where they match an everyday item with its "source." Grades 9-12

Estimated Time
30 minutes
Materials Needed

*These items are included in the Source Search Kit, which is available for purchase from


agriculture: the science or practice of farming, including cultivation of the soil for the growing of crops and the rearing of animals to provide food, wool, and other products

mineral: an inorganic substance needed by the human body for good health

natural resources: materials or substances such as minerals, forests, water, and fertile land that occur in nature and can be used for economic gain

source: a place, person, or thing from which something originates

Did You Know?
  • Fiber is the word farmers and ranchers use to describe the raw product for fabric. The two most important farm-produced fibers are wool and cotton.
  • More than 24 million American workers (17 percent of the total U.S. work force), process and sell the nation's food and fiber.
  • About 18 percent of all U.S. agricultural products are exported yearly.
  • Mason jars were invented in 1858, for home canning purposes.
Background Agricultural Connections

If you were to take a moment to look around and identify the items you rely on every day they would likely include food, clothing, modes of transportation such as a car or bike, building materials such as steel and wood, various technological devices such as cell phones or computers, and several tools or machines. Where did these items and the raw products used to make them originate? This lesson helps students answer that question.

Many people might recognize that farms provide us with whole, raw foods like fruits, vegetables, milk, meat, and eggs. They may even recognize that foods such as bread, pasta, cheese, frozen chicken nuggets, and canned foods also come from a farm, but are first prepared and packaged at a food processing facility. However, in reality, agriculture also provides us with a wide variety of raw materials used to make clothes, books, cosmetics, medicines, sports equipment, and much more.

Everything we make and use in society can originally be found somewhere in our environment or it is produced on farms by using natural resources such as land and water. Resources such as metal and glass are made from minerals that are extracted from the earth through the process of mining. Most plastics are a byproduct of oil which is extracted from beneath the Earth's surface. Other items we rely on from day to day are a product of agriculture. Farms exist in numerous sizes and various locations and include many different products ranging from food and clothing to fuel and building supplies.

While many day-to-day items were built, processed, or manufactured at a factory and eventually sold at a store, it is important for students to understand that they each began as a resource of the natural world and/or a product of agriculture.


This lesson has been adapted for online instruction and can be found on the 9-12th grade eLearning site.

  1. Ask students what they did to get ready for school. Make a list of the common items used and foods eaten by the students in preparation for school each morning. Write the list on the board.
  2. Once the list has been made, choose several random items and ask the students where or how that item was originally created. For example, where was the food they ate for breakfast produced? What was used to make the car that drove them to school? Allow students to offer their prior knowledge as you discuss these items.
  3. Inform students that they will be participating in an activity to learn about the sources of many day-to-day items.
Explore and Explain

This lesson has been adapted for online instruction and can be found on the 9-12th grade eLearning site.


  1. Print and cut out the attached Source Search Pictures showing everyday items.
    • Optional: If you prefer to get your students involved in the preparation stage (and have time), have students gather their own pictures of everyday items. Gather a variety of magazines or slick ads from the Sunday newspaper and instruct your students to cut out pictures that represent items they use regularly (food, cars, soap, clothes, computers, etc.) Avoiding duplication, select 36.
  2. Randomly divide the 36 pictures into two groups. Use two colors of index cards (or card stock) and glue the pictures onto the cards. Laminate the pictures for future use.
  3. Obtain four containers (boxes, plastic tubs, paper box lids, or paper grocery bags) and label each with one of the following: “Stores,” “Factories,” “Farms,” and “Natural Resources.”
  4. Identify a suitable location for a relay race such as an area outside, a wide hallway, or the gymnasium. 


  1. Divide the class into two teams. Divide the laminated pictures by color. You should have 18 pictures in each pile. If you are using red and blue index cards, you will have a red and blue team.
  2. Take the students to the location of the relay race and place each team in a single file line. Be sure to have all the pictures face down in front of the first person in each line. Locate the tubs 20-50 feet away from the lines.
  3. Give students the following instructions: "This is the source relay. Your job is to place each card in the tub representing the original source of the everyday item that is pictured. When you are at the front of the line, pick up a card, look at the picture, then run to and place the picture in the correct tub based on the product’s “source”– either “Stores,” “Factories,” “Natural Resources,” or “Farms.” Keep in mind that you are looking at the product, not the packaging. The next person in line goes when the person in front of them returns and crosses over the start line or hand-tags them. The returning player should go to the end of the line."
    • Optional Alternative: Rather than a relay race, you can also play the Source Search Kahoot game or Source Search Quizziz. These online game quizzes may also be used as a formative assessment after the relay.
  4. Ask students if they have any questions and clarify as needed. Begin the relay race and continue until all of the pictures have been sorted. The first team to finish the sort wins temporarily, but the ultimate winner will be determined by accuracy.
  5. After the relay is over and the pictures are sorted, return to the classroom or have the students gather around you in a suitable location to go through the cards and discuss the correct answers. As you hold up each picture, the students can show whether they agree or disagree with the sort using the "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" signal, or another response as chosen. Use the attached Source Search Items Reference List for the correct answers and explanations for each card. You can also refer to the Source Search e-Learning lesson video for a recorded explanation. If you choose to keep score to identify a winner, have a student keep a tally for each team of the cards placed in the correct box.
    • Farms: Explain that if the item contains ingredients or raw products from a farm, the item is in the correct box. Examples would be any food items such as cereal, cookies, and milk, or any clothing item made from a natural fiber such as cotton (jeans) or wool (coat). Some items from a farm that are not eaten or worn include paint (this contains linseed or soybean oil) or fuel such as ethanol. 
      • Note: After most relays, the “Farms” container will typically have only a few items in it.
    • Natural Resources: Explain that items in this tub should be products we get from the ocean, from plants or animals that occur naturally without management from humans, or from mining. Examples of items that should be in this box are: fish or shrimp (wild; however, note that fish and shrimp can also be farmed), cars, salt, water, plastic (plastic starts as oil, which is mined), synthetic fabrics (polyester, petroleum or oil products), computers, cell phones, and any metallic items. Wood products may be in this box, but many wood products come from timber grown on farms. Let the class decide how to divide these. You might decide to “split the difference;” put one (the fish) into the “Farms” box and the wood into the “Natural Resources” box. Remind your students that this is the “source” search. What is the “real” source of the things we use every day? Nearly all are grown or mined – farmed or extracted from the natural world.
      • Note: This tub is also likely to only have a few items inside.
    • Factories: Explain that a factory is a place where raw ingredients are changed into the useful items we need or want; wood into furniture, ore into steel for cars, wheat into bread, and potatoes into chips. A factory assembles items to later be sold in a distribution center or store. With this information ask students, "Are there any items that can originally be sourced to a factory?" (No.) Proceed by sorting every card in the “Factories” box into either the “Farms” or “Natural Resources” container. After doing this, your students should understand that all originally sourced products have either been grown or mined.
    • Stores: Move to the box labeled "Stores." After receiving the explanation about factories, check for understanding by asking, "What type of things can be sourced to a store?" Students should realize that, like the “Factories” container, nothing should be in the “Stores” container; this is just where we purchase the items, it is not their original source. Clarify that factories and stores rely on raw ingredients from the farm and natural world. Every picture or product should now be in either the “Farms” or “Natural Resources” container.
  6. To increase the level of understanding, ask students, "What natural resources do farms need in order to produce the products used to make all of these items?" (Soil, water, light, and air are natural resources that farmers rely on.) To illustrate, place the “Farms” box inside the “Natural Resources” box.

Agriculture: The Source for Careers

  1. Now that students have discovered the source of many of the things they use each day, help students see that agriculture is also the source of many careers. Ask students the following series of questions:
    • What is the primary ingredient of cheese? (milk)
    • What kind of farm is milk produced on? (dairy farm)
    • Beginning on a dairy farm where the milk is produced and ending at your home where cheese is consumed, how many careers played a role in providing cheese for us to eat? (allow students time to begin thinking about the answer to this question.)
  2. Begin drawing a career web on the board. Explain that there is an interconnected web of careers that depend upon each other to produce the food we eat. Using the notes below, briefly describe how these careers are connected to the dairy farm and are necessary to produce the milk that is used to make cheese. Be sure to also explain that the web could be much larger. This is only a small sample.
    • Dairy Farmers: Raise and care for cattle on farms where milk is produced.
    • Veterinarians: Assist farmers in maintaining the health and well-being of animals.
    • Animal Geneticists: Research how genetic traits impact the health and productivity of animals and help farmers make the best decisions regarding the genetics and breeding of their animals.
    • Animal Nutritionists: Formulate the diets of animals to meet their nutritional needs. Nutritionists help dairy farmers provide a healthy diet for their cattle at each stage of their life.
    • Inspectors: Monitor the transportation of livestock animals and verify livestock ownership.
    • Salesmen: Help in many areas of agriculture by providing the right kinds of tools and equipment to accomplish a variety of jobs.
    • Crop Farmers: Produce feed for dairy farmers, such as corn, alfalfa, soybeans, etc.
    • Soil Scientists/Agronomists: Analyze the quality of soil and help farmers balance the nutrients to enable the growth of healthy crops.
    • Plant Geneticists: Study the genetic traits of plants and use methods of crossbreeding and hybridization to perpetuate desirable traits in plants.
    • Feed or Seed Store Managers: Provide farmers with access to the feed, seeds and other farm supplies necessary to their farms.
    • Truck Drivers: Transport agricultural goods from production to processing and then to be distributed to consumers.
    • Engineers: Design new technology to improve productivity and sustainability (for example, automated sprinkler systems, robotic milking equipment, etc.).
    • Food Scientists: Study the science of food preparation and formulate recipes (for example, developing different types of cheese making methods).
    • Mechanics: Repair and maintain equipment such as trucks, tractors and farming implements.
  3. Once the web is complete, have students use colored pencils to color code their web and see how many career pathways contributed to the process of creating the product. You can project the Discover Agriculture poster for guidance.
  4. If you have the time, divide students into teams or small groups and give them one Source Search Card from the relay race. Assign students to create a career web for that item and color code each career in the pathway it matches best (as seen on the poster). 

After conducting this activity, consider repeating the relay a second time using only two containers, “Farms” and “Natural Resources” to assess student understanding.

Review and summarize the following key concepts:

  • Natural resources are materials or substances that occur on or in the earth naturally. 
  • Natural resources such as water and land are used by farmers to grow crops and raise livestock which can provide us with food, fiber, fuel, and shelter.
  • Natural resources such as minerals mined from the earth or petroleum fuels mined from below the earth's surface are used to make glass, metal, and some plastics.
  • We depend on natural resources for the items we rely on day-to-day. They should be used and managed wisely.
  • Processing and manufacturing raw goods from farms or natural resources into food, tools, machines, and other items increases their value.

Activity adapted from Project Season, by Deborah Parrella.

Debra Spielmaker
Utah Agriculture in the Classroom
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