Target Grade Level / Age Range:

Third Grade/ 8-9 year olds


1 hour (or 30 minutes on two separate days) followed by 5 minutes daily for 2 weeks


Students will compare and contrast corn and soybean plants, the growth and development, and how each are used for different purposes and make different products that all of us use daily. Students will also learn and identify the parts of a monocot and dicot and measure growth.


  • Corn Belt Harvest by Raymond Bial
  • untreated corn seeds
  • The Super Soybean by Raymond Bial
  • untreated soybean seeds
  • Jewelry size re-sealable bags
  • Jelly BeadZ
  • Yarn
  • Soil
  • Small plastic cups
  • Large butcher paper
  • Diagrams from:
    • (diagram of corn kernel)
    • (diagram of a bean seed)

Suggested Companion Resources (books, websites, etc.)

Vocabulary (with definitions)

  • Germination- process of a plant emerging from a seed and beginning to grow
  • Embryo- part of a seed that develops into a plant
  • Cotyledon- part of the embryo within a seed that provides nutrients for the germinating plant
  • Monocot- flowering plant with an embryo that has one cotyledon
  • Dicot- flowering plant with an embryo that has two cotyledons
  • Ethanol- renewable fuel made from various plant materials
  • Biodiesel- renewable fuel made from oils and fats of natural origin
  • Renewable resource-any natural resource that can replenish itself naturally over time
  • Non-renewable resource- any natural resource that cannot be replenishes naturally; when it is gone it is gone forever

Interest Approach or Motivator:

Split students into two groups. Give one group a bucket of soybeans and one group a bucket of corn, half-full. Give the groups 5 minutes to determine what they know about the commodity in their bucket. Then, have the soybean group teach the corn group what they think they know, and the corn group share what they know. Then, have students discuss the crops and add additional information they know.

Background – Agricultural Connections (what would a teacher need to know before teaching this lesson):

Corn and soybeans are Iowa’s #1 and #2 crops, and Iowa leads the country in corn production and usually soybean production as well. Corn and soybeans that are raised in Iowa are used for a variety of different products, including ethanol to power cards, corn syrup that’s found in candy, fruit snacks, and some fruit juices, corn starch that is a common thickener, fed to livestock and used for food products like corn chips and taco shells.             

 Soybeans are used for biodiesel to power trucks and busses. Soybean oil is the main ingredient in vegetable oil, and can be processed into soy milk, tofu, and soy protein. Soybeans are also used to feed livestock.

Corn and soybeans develop very different. Corn is a type of grass, and soybeans are a legume. Corn is a monocot, and soybeans are dicots, meaning that corn only has one cotyledon and soybeans have two. Cotyledons become the first true leaves of the plant. Soybeans develop nodules on their roots that help fix nitrogen from the atmosphere for the plant to use. Corn does not have that ability, and must rely on the soil for the nitrogen it needs.

Procedures (main points, step by step activities, and the full content to be presented to students)

Activity One:

  1. Create a KWL chart for both corn and soybeans listing what students share.
  2. Hand students use magnifying glasses and their own corn and soybean seed to examine. Share observations about what they see and make a list on the board for the corn and soybean seed.
  3. Open already softened (pre-soaked) seeds and look and label the parts of a corn and soybean seed. Label the parts on the blank diagram worksheet.
  4. Discuss the differences in the seeds with the students. What other crops might have seeds similar to corn? Soybeans?
  5. Hand each student a jewelry sized bag, 9 Jelly BeadZ, two corn kernels and two soybean seeds, and a piece of yarn.
  6. Students will plant the seeds in their bags and wear around their neck as a necklace all day. At the end of the day, collect and place next to a warm area in the room.

Activity 2

  1. Together read each book by Raymond Bial. Discuss as the books are read products we get from corn and soybeans.
    1. Students may stay more engaged if only certain pages are read rather than the whole book.
  2. Discuss what makes corn and soybeans a renewable resource and how we can use them for fuel.
  3. Complete a large Venn Diagram comparing and contrasting corn and soybeans as a whole class.
    1. The Venn Diagram could compare and contrast uses, growth, and seed parts.
  4. Students will then individually write 3 facts they learned about corn and 3 facts they learned about soybeans on sticky notes and place them on the “L” portion of the KWL chart.
  5. Spend 5-10 minutes every day or every other day observing the seed germination necklaces with students. Students can record observations individually or as a class, and add anything they observe to the class Venn diagram.

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

Extension Activities (how can students extend learning outside of the classroom? This could include assignments they do outside of class.)

  • Students will measure the height of their corn and soybean plant each day for 2 weeks and make a double line graph showing change over time.
  • Present students with a variety of products containing soybeans, corn, or both. Have students work in groups to sort the products into categories that contain corn, soybeans, or both.


Jennifer Hardee, Essex Elementary School, 3 rd grade

National Agriculture Literacy Outcomes

  • Plants and Animals for Food, Fiber & Energy Outcomes
    • Upper Elementary Grades 3-5- Distinguish between renewable and non-renewable resources used in the production of food, feed, fuel, fiber (fabric or clothing) and shelter
  • Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Outcomes
    • Provide examples of science being applied in farming for food, clothing and shelter products

Iowa Common Standards (Essential Concepts and Skills)

  •  Literacy - Reading Standards for Informational Text
    • K-5- RI.3.1 Ask and answer questions to demonstrate understanding of a text, referring explicitly to the text as the basis for the answers.
    • W.4.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development and organization are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
    • SL.4.4 Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience in an organized manner, using appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details to support main ideas or themes; speak clearly at an understandable pace.
  • Century Skills st21
    • 21.3–5.ES.1 Essential Concept and/or Skill: Communicate and work productively with others emphasizing collaboration and cultural awareness to produce quality work.
  • Math - Measurement and Data-
    • 3.MD.B.4 Generate measurement data by measuring lengths using rulers marked with halves and fourths of an inch. Show the data by making a line plot, where the horizontal scale is marked off in appropriate units—whole numbers, halves, or quarters.

Next Generation Science Standards

  • 3-LS1-1. Develop models to describe that organisms have unique and diverse life cycles but all have in common birth, growth, reproduction, and death.

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