Target Grade Level / Age Range:

3 rd-5 th Grade


1 hour – can be shortened


Students will learn and exercise knowledge of the uses of by-products of common Midwestern crops.


Suggested Companion Resources

  • A Hog Ate My Homework by Gary Metivier


  • By-product – an incidental or secondary product made in the manufacture or synthesis of something else.

Interest Approach or Motivator

Ask students if they can name the top crops and livestock produced in the Midwest. What are they used for? Are they important in everyday life? Do they bring economic value to our state and region? Have students discuss these ideas with a partner or small ground and then share their thoughts with the class.

Background – Agricultural Connections

The Midwest part of the United States grows some very important crops and livestock, including corn, soybeans, sugar beets, beef cattle, hogs and sheep. While these crops and livestock are grown for primary uses such as fuel (ethanol and biodiesel), food or fiber, they have secondary uses that are a huge part of our everyday lives. By-products from crops and livestock can be found in cosmetics, ice cream, bandages and brushes. These by-products are products that would otherwise go to waste, but bring additional economic value to the crop or livestock item at harvest.


  1. Have students get into teams of 3-5 and select a team leader.
  2. Hand out the Agriculture Posters to each student. Give them 2-3 minutes to look over them and familiarize themselves.
  3. Explain that the students will be playing a game called “By-Product Riddles.” On the slideshow, there will be a riddle that must be solved. The answers are on the Agriculture Posters. Teams must work together and agree on an answer. After the whole team agrees on the answer, the leader may hit their buzzer and when called on recite their answer. All answers must include the commodity (corn, soybeans, cattle, pigs, etc.) as well as the product being referenced in the riddle (ice cream, cosmetics, hair brush, etc.).
    1. If the team that buzzes is and is called on first gets the answer wrong, the next team to hit their buzzer has the opportunity to answer the riddle.
    2. A team that answers the riddle correctly in both the product and commodity gets a point. At the end of time or the end of the slides, the team with the most points is the winner.

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

Extension Activities

  • Have students choose a commodity or livestock animal and research all of its products and by-products. Then, students should write a short informative essay on the farming of that product and the potential uses for it. 


Kelsey Faivre

Organization Affiliation

Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation

Agriculture Literacy Outcomes

  • Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Outcomes
    • Provide examples of science being applied in farming for food, clothing, and shelter products
  • Culture, Society, Economy and Geography Outcomes
    • Explain the value of agriculture and how it is important in daily life.
    • Consider the economic value of agriculture in America

Common Core Connections

  • 21 st Century Skills
    • 21.3–5.ES.3 Essential Concept and/or Skill: Practice leadership skills, and demonstrate integrity, ethical behavior, and social responsibility in all activities.
    • 21.3–5.ES.4 Essential Concept and/or Skill: Demonstrate initiative, creativity, self–direction, and entrepreneurial thinking to produce successful outcomes.
  • Literacy
    • RI.5.3 Explain the relationships or interactions between two or more individuals, events, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text based on specific information in the text.

Creative Commons License

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