Students explore four weeks of life cycles

Irwin, Iowa – November 4, 2019 – Third grade students at IKM-Manning Elementary School have been exploring the life cycles of soybeans, chickens, sunflowers, and apples. Third grade teachers Lori Petersen and Greg Polzien invited Loess Hills Agriculture in the Classroom to speak to students about life cycles. The goal was to help students learn about the similarities and differences of different living things.

As an introduction, the class is asked, “What is agriculture?” After the students have a chance to guess, Melanie Bruck of Loess Hills Agriculture in the Classroom explains that agriculture is the food, the fuel and the fibers that we use every day. Agriculture is the process of getting those plants and animals from the people who grow them (producers) to the people who need them (consumers). During each of the four weeks of this program, that definition was reviewed.

“We are so happy to have Mrs. Bruck here each week. The students so enjoy the lessons,” said Petersen. 

The first week of the program introduced soybeans and the soybean lifecycle to students. A classroom model was used to illustrate how soybeans develop from a seed and grow into the mature plant. To help students understand the lifecycle, Bruck explained that farmers plant soybean seeds in the spring and harvest them in the fall. Each soybean pod that is harvested may have three to four seeds in it.

Week two of the program covered sunflowers. Bruck and the students read the book Sunflower House by Eve Bunting and discussed how the sunflower plant is an annual and grows and dies every year. When it dies, it releases its seeds to spread for the next year.

Chicken life cycles was the third topic and students discovered different types of chickens as well as what it takes for a chick to hatch. Students learned that eggs from the grocery store won’t hatch because they haven’t been fertilized. A rooster is needed to make a fertilized egg which, once incubated, will develop into a chick.

Bruck brought in a live chicken and the students were full of questions about how to care for it. They learned what chickens eat and how much they eat. Students learned about how old chickens are before they will begin laying eggs.

“That’s really cool! I didn’t know that chickens could lay that many eggs,” exclaimed one student after discovering a chicken can lay one egg every 26 hours.

During the final week of the program students covered apples. From seeds to tree, to buds, to flower, to fruit, the class discussed each of the phases of the apple’s life cycle. A copy of the My Family Apple Farm book was provided to each student to keep. This publication is a part of the My Family Farm book series published by the Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation.

“The apple books have a lot of information the students can use,” says Petersen.

For third grade students in Iowa learning about life cycles is not just a fun lesson, it is required. Iowa core science standards require students to develop models to describe organisms that have unique and diverse life cycles, but all have in common birth, growth, reproduction, and death.

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About Loess Hills Agriculture in the Classroom

Loess Hills Agriculture in the Classroom is a regional effort of the Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation (IALF). It serves school districts in five counties in southwest Iowa including Carroll Co., Crawford Co., Harrison Co., Shelby Co., and West Pottawattamie Co. The IALF mission is to educate Iowans, with a focus on youth, regarding the breadth and global significance of agriculture. IALF serves as a central resource for educators and volunteers who want to teach Iowa's students about agriculture. As leading producer of agricultural products, it is important for all Iowans to understand the essential role agriculture has in their lives. The mission of Agriculture in the Classroom is to "increase agricultural literacy through K-12 education." An agriculturally literate person is "one who understands and can communicate the source and value of agriculture as it affects quality of life." AITC programs seek to improve student achievement by applying authentic, agricultural-based content as the context to teach core curriculum concepts in science, social studies, language arts and nutrition. By embedding agriculture into curriculum, AITC cultivates an understanding and appreciation of the food and fiber system that we rely on every day. AITC is unique within the agricultural education community as the lead organization to serve the full spectrum of K-12 formal education. For more information visit IALF online at, on Facebook, and Twitter.


Loess Hills Agriculture in the Classroom


Melanie Bruck, Education Program Coordinator

Loess Hills Agriculture in the Classroom


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