Target Grade Level / Age Range:

2 nd Grade


40 minutes


Students will be able to identify healthy dairy products, describe the dairy process, and strengthen writing and sequencing skills.


  • Chart Paper
  • Book- Milk: From Cow to Carton by Aliki

Suggested Companion Resources (books and websites):


  • Dairy: Where milking cows live and are milked
  • Dairy cows: Cows that are raised to produce milk
  • Dairy products: Food products we eat that contain milk from cows

Background – Agricultural Connections:

  • This lesson has multiple objectives; to teach healthy choices, strengthen listening, writing, and sequencing skills, and learn about the dairy process.
  • Though the lesson calls for a non-fiction book describing the dairy process, here is an overview:
    • First, cows are milked. Cows are usually milked twice a day. However, cows don’t always need milked. Cows are monitored on a 305-day milking cycle. A while after the calf is born, the mama cow starts producing less milk. This is called “drying off” and is normal.
    • When cows are lactating, they can drink a bathtub (30 gallons) of water, and produce about 8 gallons of milk – in one day!
    • Most dairies have machines that milk the cows. They have gentle cups that vacuum to the cow’s teats that milk the cow. Before the dairymen put the machine on the cow, they will clean her teats and check for infections. Sometimes cows can get mastitis or other infections. When this happens, their milk is not added to the other cows’ milk. It is dumped instead.
      • When cows are treated for infections and diseases with medicine, their milk will continue to be dumped until the withdrawal period on the medicine’s label is up. If farmers collect that milk instead, they can be fined for huge amounts of money.
    • When the cow is milked, the milk will go into a bulk tank. Milk trucks will come to collect milk from the bulk tanks, and take it to companies where it is processed into other dairy items. From there, dairy products are taken to stores and sold to the public. It takes milk just two days to get from the cow to the store.
  • Though many pictures of dairy cows are of cows outside, lots of dairy cows live in barns. Barns help farmers monitor the animals to help make sure they are safe, comfortable, and healthy.
  • More information on the dairy process can be found here:

Interest Approach or Motivator:

Ask the students to list what they had for breakfast, lunch, snack, and dinner yesterday on a sheet of paper.


  1. After the students compile the list of the meals they had the day before, ask them to circle the ones that they think are dairy products.
  2. On chart paper, compile a list of all the dairy products the students consumed.
  3. Point out that milk or dairy products can be eaten at any of these times, and that to get enough calcium for our bones and teeth we have to eat milk, cheese or yogurt three times per day.
  4. Have the students turn to a partner and discuss where these dairy products come from.
    1. Once they have talked to their partner for a minute or so, bring the large group back together. What were some things they discussed? Where do dairy products come from?
  5. After a short discussion, read aloud Milk: From Cow to Carton.
    1. If this book is not available, other dairy books such as Extra Cheese Please, Milk Comes from a Cow, Life on a Dairy Farm, Clarabelle; Making Milk and so Much More¸ or A Day at our Dairy Farm.
    2. Watch the video: From Moo to You: The Story of Milk
  6. Lastly, students will write letters to a dairy farmer.
    1. Encourage them to ask questions about the milking process.
    2. Encourage students to sequence events from the process of getting milk that they learned from the story.

Essential Files:

Did you know? (Ag facts):

  • Iowa ranks 12 th is milk production in the United States.
  • The average cow produces 21,309 pounds of milk.
  • Des Moines, Iowa consumes the most milk of any city in the United States.
  • Cows produce about 8 gallons of milk a day, and drink about a bathtub’s worth of water in a day!

Extension Activities:

  • Language Arts:
    • Read the book Click Clack Moo (available in IALF’s Lending Library). Compare and contrast the fiction and nonfiction texts, and write a second letter like they think a cow would write (if cows could write).
  • Science/21 st Century Skills/Listening Skills:
    • Video chat with a dairy farmer at their dairy. Allow the farmer to show the students real cows and real dairy technology in real time! This could be the same farmer the letters were sent to. The FarmChat could be used to answer the students’ questions.



Martina Taylor  

Organization Affiliation:

Holy Cross School

National Agriculture Literacy Outcomes:

  • Plants and Animals for Food, Fiber & Energy:
    • T3 K-2.a:  Identify healthy food options
  • Culture, Society, Economy & Geography:
    • T5 K-2.f. Trace the sources of agricultural products (plant or animal) used daily

Iowa Core Standards:

  • Science:
    • 2-LS-4: Make observations of plants and animals to compare the diversity of life in different habitats.
  • Language Arts:
    • RI.2.3: Describe the connection between a series of historical events, scientific ideas or concepts, or steps in technical procedures in a text.
    • W.2.2: Write informative/explanatory texts in which they introduce a topic, use facts and definitions to develop points, and provide a concluding statement or section.
  • 21 st Century Skills:
    • 21.K-2.HL.1: Understand and use basic health concepts to enhance personal, family and community health.

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