Target Grade Level / Age Range:



  • 30 minutes as a group activity using the soybean cut-outs as a visual aid. 
  • 60 minutes plus to make.   


This lesson is designed to introduce or review the life cycle of plants.  The soybean life cycle model will help them visualize each stage of the life cycle.   The soybean plant is an excellent plant to use when teaching life cycles because it has a very typical plant life cycle and it is grown throughout Iowa. 


  • Construction paper or cardstock in green, white, brown, and purple.
  • White yarn (One 2-inch piece, three 3-inch pieces, and four 4-inch pieces per student)
  • Glue
  • Scissors
  • Large paper or plastic envelope (9x 12”)
  • 4-5 sets of the Soybean Life cycle Picture Cards
  • One copy of the soybean life cycle discussion guide or soybean life cycle skit.  
  • A digital or printed copy of My Family’s Soybean Farm by Katie Olthoff

Essential Files:

Suggested Companion Resources:

  • Beans Life Cycles by Julie Murray
  • Soybeans an A-to-Z Book by Susan Anderson & JoAnne Buggey
  • Soybeans in the Story of Agriculture by Susan Anderson & JoAnne Buggey
  • The Super Soybean by Raymond Bial
  • Auntie Yang’s Great Soybean Picnic by Ginnie Lo


  • Germination – The process of a plant emerging from a seed and beginning to grow. 
  • Sprout – A young plant, just emerged from the ground.  

Interest Approach or Motivator:

Ask the students the following questions:

  • What plants do farmers in Iowa grow?
  • What season do Iowa farmers plant crops?

Background – Agricultural Connections:

Farmers in Iowa are the country’s biggest producers of corn and soybeans. These plants germinate in the ground the same way they do in the seed germination necklaces. Farmers care for them from planting until harvest. Corn and soybeans are found in many items that we use every day, including plastics, corn chips, and even cake! They can also be feed to livestock and used for ethanol and biodiesel production.

Iowa is one of the top two soybean producing states in the nation.  Soybeans are used to make many products that we eat or use every day.  Some of these products include feed for animals, food products, biodiesel, vegetable oils, cleaning products, and crayons.

Iowa farmers plant soybeans in late April and May. They buy soybean seed in 50-60 pound bags that hold 140,000 seeds, or in very large bulk seed bags that are over four feet tall weigh about 3,000 pounds. When the seeds have matured in the fall, the upright plant begins to shrivel and the leaves fall away.  All harvesting is done by machines. Farmers use combines that cut the stalk, thresh the plant residue, and separate the beans from the pod. After harvesting the beans, farmers either transport their crops to a commercial grain elevator or store the beans in their own grain bins to sell later. After the soybeans are sold, they are transported to processing plants or sold to other countries.


  1. Activity preparation:
    1. Use the patterns to trace each shape on the appropriate color of construction paper, or copy the shapes directly on cardstock. 
    2. Cut out the plant part shapes.  If desired, draw details such as veins, flower parts, and ridges on the shapes.
    3. If the stage has more than one piece, glue the pieces together. Use the picture key to determine what pieces go together.  If desired, laminate each growth stage to make them more durable.  
    4. Add the yarn for the roots onto the appropriate stage. (One two-inch piece on the germinating seed, three three-inch pieces on the sprout, and four four-inch pieces on the growing soybean plant)
    5. Using makers or crayons, decorate the envelope to look like a bag of seeds, or print and attach the soybean life cycle cover to the front of the envelope.  Attach the Soybean Life Cycle Discussion Guide to the back of the envelope.   
    6. Stack the shapes neatly and place them inside the envelope.  
    7. If desired you can connect the stages in order with yarn, so that they come out of the envelope in the correct order.
    8. Make enough copies of the Soybean Life Cycle Picture Cards, so groups of 4-5 students can each have a set.  Cut each page in fourths, to create individual cards.
    9. Example of a completed soybean life cycle model.

  2. Class Activity:
    1. Read “My Family’s Soybean Farm” by Katie Olthoff.
    2. In front of the class, pull one life cycle stage out of the envelope at a time using the questions in the Soybean Life Cycle Discussion Guide to spark discussion.
      1. Alternatively, you can use the Soybean Life cycle Script to “act out” the life cycle in front of the class or have them present the life cycle skit to another class.      
  3. Small Group Review:
    1. Divide the class into groups of 4-5 students, and give group a shuffled set of picture cards. 
    2. Ask the students to work together to sequence the pictures in order of the soybean life cycle. 

Did you know? (Ag facts):

  • Soybeans are the second most common crop grown in Iowa.
  • Iowa usually ranks #1 in the production of soybeans each year.
  • Soybeans are used in many common household items, including plastic, crayons, inks, and more!
  • The soybean is a species of legume native to East Asia, widely grown for its edible bean which has numerous uses.
  • Soybeans are used to feed livestock, make biodiesel, and processed into many food and household products.

Extension Activities:

  • Breakdown the soybean life cycle so that each day the class discusses and talks about one stage, making it into a unit lesson.
  • Use the growing soybean plant stage to identify the parts of the plant.
  • Journal or discuss the changes in stages of the life cycle.
  • Teach students that the soybean life cycle or any plant life cycle is continuous by displaying the life cycle in a circle on a classroom wall or bulletin board. Discuss that life cycles never start or end.
  • Use the life cycle to write a creative story about a soybean and how it changes during its life cycle.
  • Identify what each stage’s purpose is in the life of a soybean plant; reproduction, survival, structure, growth, storage.
  • Assign small groups to each stage of the life cycle and have the student’s research to find out how long each stage takes. Have the students present to the class what they learned about their stage.  After groups have made their stage it can be put together to represent the entire life cycle. Graph the length of time each stage takes and compare.  Make a year timeline of the soybean life cycle.
  • Discuss how other factors and organisms such as environment, insects, weather, soil, water; affect each stage of the soybean life cycle.


Cindy Hall and Laura Mincks

Organization Affiliation:

Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation     

National Agriculture Literacy Outcomes:

  • Plants and Animals for Food, Fiber, & Energy Outcomes:
    • T2.K-2.a: Explain how farmers/ranchers work with the lifecycle of plants and animals to harvest a crop.
    • T2.K-2.e: Identify the importance of natural resources in farming.

Iowa Core Standards:

  • Science:
    • Kindergarten:
      • K-LS1-1: Use observations to describe patterns of what plants and animals (including humans) need to survive
      • K-LS3-1: Make observations to construct an evidence-based account that young plants and animals are alike, but not exactly like, their parents.
    • First grade:
      • 1-LS1-2: Read texts and use media to determine patterns in behavior of parents and offspring that help offspring survive
    • Second grade:
      • 2-LS2-1: Plan and conduct an investigation to determine if plants need sunlight and water to grow

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