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Lesson Plans (9)

Corn an A-maizing Plant: Food, Fuel, and Plastic

Students examine the growth, composition, history, and uses of corn through a close reading activity, discussion of renewable and non-renewable resources, and hands-on exploration of bioplastics made from corn. Grades 3-5

Plant Nutrient Deficiencies (Grades 6-8)

Students discuss the definition of “fertilizer” and relate it to plant nutrition and the need to restore nutrient balance in agricultural soils. They discuss how people and crops can suffer from nutrient deficiencies. Students assume the roles of plant doctors and diagnose nutrient deficiencies in corn plants. Grades 6-8

The Case of the Missing Pumpkin

Students investigate the phenomenon of decomposing pumpkins as a part of the plant's life cycle. Grades K-2

The Right Diet for Your Plants

In this lesson, students will learn how to read a fertilizer label, understand the components of fertilizers, and explore factors for choosing the appropriate fertilizer for a given situation. Students will use their knowledge and conduct research on one type of soil supplement to design a persuasive product advertisement. Grades 6-8

The Rotten Truth

Students observe and explain the decomposition process and identify the methods and ingredients for making compost. Grades 3-5

The Ultimate Efficient Recycler

Students examine how cows help conserve natural resources by identifying the important role dairy cattle have in reducing, reusing, and recycling food processing by-products. Students identify each stage of the ecological cycle and the important role of decomposers. Grades 3-5

Vermicomposting (Grades 3-5)

Students create a worm bin which will serve as a basis for investigations about ecosystems, life and nutrient cycles, and decomposition. Grades 3-5

Vermicomposting (Grades K-2)

Students create a worm bin which will serve as a basis for investigations about ecosystems, life and nutrient cycles, and decomposition. Grades K-2

Working Worms

Students observe how earthworms speed the decomposition of organic matter and identify how this adds nutrients to the soil that are important for plant growth by constructing worm habitats from milk jugs. Grades 3-5

Companion Resources (27)

Construct a Compost Bottle
Composting is the process of creating nutrient-rich soil from decomposing organic matter like grass, leaves, and food scraps. Construct a compost bottle using a clear container, bottle, or jar and observe the organic matter break down into soil rich in nutrients that can be used in a garden. Instructions available in English and Spanish.
Make Your Own Worm Bin
Vermicomposting in your classroom is an effective way to engage students with a wide variety of science concepts. This activity will show you how to make your own worm bin out of a recycled styrofoam cooler. Prepare the cooler ahead of time, and then have students add the bedding, worms, and vegetable scraps.     
Seed Ball Garden Activity
Use these instructions from to make seed balls as a fun and inexpensive way to sow native plants and flowers! Seed balls are a small collection of seeds, compost/soil, and clay. They are commonly used to revegetate areas burned by wildfires but can also be used on a smaller scale in home gardens and classrooms. 
The Garden Show (Musical Play)
The Garden Show is a 25-minute musical play for grades 1-5 that ties well with science curriculum. Students learn about soil, plants, photosynthesis, pollination, and garden creatures from a wild bunch of characters, including dive-bombing bees, aliens from planet Chlorophyll, and a singing compost pile.
A Handful of Dirt
This award-winning children's book teaches that the food you eat, the clothes you wear, and even the home you live in, have their origin in the soil.
Compost Stew
From apple cores to zinnia heads, readers will discover the best ingredients for a successful compost pile. How do you start a compost pile? What's safe to include? This book provides the answers. 
Compost by Gosh!
An entertaining children's book designed to inform young readers/listeners about worms, composting, and soil nutrients. It uses Dr. Seuss like poetry and child-like illustrations to explain the process.
Composting: Nature's Recyclers
Dead leaves, food scraps, and grass clippings for lunch? Small animals, fungi, and bacteria called decomposers turn trash into a tasty compost treat. Learn more about compost and how you can use it in your garden or yard.
Diary of a Worm
Written in diary form, students will learn about life from the perspective of a worm.  The book teaches about the role worms play in our soil and uses fun and comical observations of a worm.
EIEIO: How Old MacDonald Got His Farm
Once upon a time, Old MacDonald didn't have a farm. He just had a yard—a yard he didn't want to mow. But under the direction of the wise Little Red Hen, Mac learns to look at the environment in a very different way, and whole new worlds start to bloom with the help of some mud, garbage, horse poop, and worms!
Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table
Will Allen is no ordinary farmer. A former basketball star, he's as tall as a truck, and he can hold a cabbage—or a basketball—in one hand. But what is most special about Farmer Will is that he can see what others can't see. When he looked at an abandoned city lot in Milwaukee, he saw a huge table, big enough to feed the whole world. No space? No problem. Poor soil? There's a solution. Need help? Found it. Farmer Will is a genius in solving problems. Jacqueline Briggs Martin tells the inspiring story of an innovator, educator, and community leader.
Leaf Litter Critters
Have fun on this poetic tour through the leaf litter layer and dig into the fascinating facts about the tiny critters who live there.
Nineteen poems in a variety of verse forms with accompanying science notes take readers on a decomposer safari through the "brown food web," from bacteria through tardigrades and on to rove beetle predators with other busy recyclers in-between. Glossary, hands-on investigations, and resources are included in the back matter.
My School Yard Garden
This colorful book takes students on a ramble through a school yard garden—past the seeding beds, along the compost bin, and over to the bird house and bird bath. Along the way, children learn what insects, animals, and plants need to thrive and discover the fun of observing and recording it all. My Schoolyard Garden proves you can learn a lot from a garden, no matter where it grows.
Pumpkin Jack
Join Jack in his voyage of discovery as he experiences death, decomposition and rebirth as his jack-o-lantern fades, rots and new plants grow from a seed left inside the pumpkin shell. That seed sprouts and the growth leads to a new crop of pumpkins.
Rotten Pumpkin: A Rotten Tale in 15 Voices
Compost won't mean the same thing after readers have seen the amazing transformation of Jack from grinning pumpkin to mold-mottled wreckage to hopeful green shoot. The story of decomposition is vividly told so that science comes to life (and death). Part story, part science, and a whole lot of fun.
Sophie's Squash
On a trip to the farmers' market with her parents, Sophie chooses a squash, but instead of letting her mom cook it, she names it Bernice. From then on, Sophie brings Bernice everywhere, despite her parents' gentle warnings that Bernice will begin to rot. As winter nears, Sophie does start to notice changes.... What's a girl to do when the squash she loves is in trouble?
The Giant Carrot
A TALL tale about the power of teamwork. When sweet Little Isabelle's family plants a carrot seed one day, tall Papa Joe, wide Mama Bess, and strong Brother Abel all do their part. But when Little Isabelle wants to help too, Brother Abel just laughs. "What can you do," he asks. "I'll sing and dance to the carrot to make it grow," she says. "And come summer, we'll have little cups of sweet carrot puddin." Sure enough, that carrot takes a fancy to Little Isabelle's singing and dancing and grows to an amazing height, proving that great things can be accomplished when everyone works together. Based on an old Russian folktale, and complete with a scrumptious recipe for carrot puddin', this wonderfully humorous story shows the strength of teamwork and the power of a touch of imagination.
The Magic School Bus Meets the Rot Squad: A Book About Decomposition
The students in Ms. Frizzle's class embark on another journey when the Magic School Bus tours a decomposing log that introduces the latter end of the life cycle and teaches readers that there's more to rot than meets the nose.
The Soil in Jackie's Garden
Jackie and her garden friends embrace the joys of planting a garden, nurturing and harvesting their own food, and recycling scraps to compost, ensuring that the magical cycle of growth and sustainability continues anew. Science facts about soil, plants, pollinators, decomposers, and more are included on every spread.
We Dig Worms!
What do worms do all day? How do they see? And why are they so cold and squishy? Find out by going on an underground tour through the hidden world of earthworms. Discover what's happening inside a worm's body—brain, crop, gizzard, and more. The book takes readers from "ew!" to "wow!" as they learn about the different ways worms work hard to help the earth. 
Wiggling Worms at Work
Crawling through the dirt, worms are hard at work. Worms help the fruit and vegetables we eat by loosening the soil and feeding the plants. Read and find out about these wiggling wonders!
Dirt: Secrets in the Soil (DVD)
This 60-minute DVD contains a six-segment program that brings fundamental lessons of soil science from the countryside to the classroom in a way that is sure to keep students entertained and motivated. Although designed specifically for Utah fourth-grade students, segments on soil texturing, soil layers, and composting are valuable resources for teachers in any state. This video is available on DVD or YouTube. Order this DVD online from 
Worm Farm
This four-minute video tells the story of Kevin, who's been fascinated with garbage since he was really little. He wanted to put an end to landfills and make it easier for people to recycle. How? Worms decompose organic waste! Learn how can worms help us with our garbage in this engaging video.
Teacher Reference
Backyard Composting
This book provides an easy, step-by-step guide to successful composting. Learn how easy it is to start composting, maintain an active, healthy compost, and use the compost you produce. 
Greening School Grounds: Creating Habitats for Learning
Drawing on the expertise of over 100 North American educators, this book represents some of the finest thinking about how best to design and to maximize the learning in revitalized schoolyards. In this anthology from Green Teacher magazine, readers will find step-by-step instructions for numerous projects, from tree nurseries to school composting along with ideas for enhancing learning by addressing the diverse needs of students. Among more than a dozen schoolyard options presented, the guide includes detailed articles on rooftop gardens, multicultural gardens, far-north gardens, desert gardens, butterfly gardens, ponds and prairie restorations. For project planners, there are practical tips on minimizing vandalism, maximizing participation and raising funds. And for teachers, there are dozens of outdoor classroom activities and curriculum links.