Target Grade Level:



40 min.


Students will explore the variety of milks available and the source of those milks.


  • A variety of milks to sample (options: fat-free skim, 1%, 2%, chocolate, whole, lactose-free, soy, almond, soymilk, perhaps even goat milk if available)
  • Mini cups for each students’ milk samples
  • Picture book: Milk Makers by Gail Gibbons

Suggested Companion Resources (books, websites, etc.):

  • Milk from Cow to Carton by Aliki
  • Cows by Peter Brady
  • No Milk! By Jennifer A. Ericsson
  • The Milkman’s Boy by Donald Hall
  • Cheese by Linda Illsley
  • From Cow to Ice Cream by Bertram T. Knight
  • Cows by Mary Ann McDonald
  • Cows in the Parlor: A Visit to a Dairy Farm by Cynthia McFarland


  • Dairy Cow - a cow raised by a farmer for milk production
  • Cud - food swallowed by the cow but not chewed thoroughly until later
  • Dry Off - period when cow is not being milked
  • Homogenize - to blend milk so that butterfat particles are broken into tiny bits so that the milk is the same throughout
  • Pasteurize - to heat milk quickly almost to boiling and then cooled quickly to kill germs
  • Silage - a chopped mixture of green corn, grass, and legumes stored in a silo
  • Udder - part of the cow where milk is stored

Background – Agricultural Connections:

The dairy industry is an important part of Iowa agriculture. Dairy farmers raise cows and milk them 2-3 times a day. That milk is consumed or processed into ice cream, butter, yogurt, and other dairy products. Milk is a good source of protein, vitamins and minerals – especially calcium. Milk is also rich in potassium and vitamin B12. Vitamin D is also added to milk to help with the absorption of calcium.

Cow’s milk is homogenized, meaning it is processed to not have the cream separate from the milk. The cream particles are broken up and intermixed with the rest of the milk. Milk is also pasteurized, meaning it is heated up quickly to kill pathogens. Raw milk (fresh from a cow) can pose many more health risks because it has not undergone pasteurization.

Milk alternatives include products like almond milk and soy milk, which are non-dairy. Almond milk involves almonds, which are heavily grown in California. Soymilk is made from soybeans, which are grown heavily in Midwestern states like Iowa and Illinois.

Interest Approach or Motivator:

Create a KWL chart on a large writing surface. Ask students what they know about milk and dairy production. Record answers under the ‘What I Know’ column. Ask students what they want to know about milk or dairy production. Record answers under the ‘What I Wonder’ column. Leave the ‘What I Learned’ column blank and complete at the end of class.


  1. Have a variety of milk lined up so students can view them (skim &/or fat-free, 1%, 2%, whole, soy, almond, lactose free).  Have mini cups available for students to try a small sample of each.
  2. Have students record their observations of color, texture, and taste.
  3. As a class, have students select their favorite milk and record the number of each students that select each type of milk.
    1. Have students then create a bar graph recording this data. X axis is labeled as the types of milk. The Y axis is the number of students.
    2. Discuss results.
  4. Which one has the most votes? Least?
  5. Which one(s) is/are even? Odd?
  6. How many votes would it take to tie or equal the top voted milk?
  7. How many more to beat it?
  8. Which types of milk tasted similar? 
  9. Discuss with students why milk is a healthy food. Invite them to share information they have about cows, visits to dairy farms, or even life on a diary.
    1. Milk is healthy because it has lots of calcium, protein, vitamins D, B12, and potassium. Calcium and vitamin D give us strong bones and teeth. Protein helps us build muscles. Dairy is an important part of a healthy diet.
  10. Read The Milk Makers with students.
  11. Review the lesson and complete the ‘What I Learned’ column from the KWL chart.

Extension Activities:

  • Have students work with family members to locate food products made from milk.  Write down and bring back to class for discussion.
  • Send home poster paper or white paper for each child to create a picture depicting why they think milk is important.  This can be used later for a bulletin board with their milk moustache photos.
  • If having a dairy farmer guest speaker or visiting a dairy farm on a field trip is impossible, watch the video Dairy FarmChat®.


Stephanie Fowler


National Agriculture Literacy Outcomes:

  • Culture, Society, Economy, & Geography
    • Identify animals grown or raised locally that are used for food
    • Trace the sources of agricultural products (plant or animal) used daily
  • Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math
    • Recognize and identify examples of simple tools and machines used in agricultural settings 
  • Plants and Animals for Food, Fiber, & Energy
    • Identify animals involved in agricultural production and their uses (ex. work, meat, dairy, eggs)

Iowa Core Standards:

  • English Language Arts:
    • RL.1.IA.1 - Employ the full range of research-based comprehension strategies, including making connections, determining importance, questioning, visualizing, making inferences, summarizing, and monitoring for comprehension.
    • RL.1.1 - Ask and answer questions about key details in a text.
    • RI.1.2 - Identify the main topic and retell key details of a text.
    • SL.1.3 - Ask and answer questions about what a speaker says in order to gather additional information or clarify something that is not understood.
    • RI.1.4 - Ask and answer questions to help determine or clarify the meaning of words and phrases in a text.
    • RI.1.5 - Know and use various text features (e.g., headings, tables of contents, glossaries, electronic menus, icons) to locate key facts or information in a text.
  • Math:
    • 1.OA.B.3 - Apply properties of operations as strategies to add and subtract.
    • 1.OA.B.4 - Understand subtraction as an unknown–addend problem.
    • 1.MD.C.4 - Organize, represent, and interpret data with up to three categories; ask and answer questions about the total number of data points, how many in each category, and how many more or less are in one category than in another.
  • 21 st Century Skills:
    • 21.K–2.HL.1 - Understand and use basic health concepts to enhance personal, family, and community health.
    • 21.K–2.HL.4 - Identify influences that affect personal health and the health of others.

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