The Very Hungry Iowa Caterpillar
Target Grade Level/Age Range:
Students will discover the plants and animals grown on farms in Iowa through an agriculture-spin on a familiar book.
- Red and green construction paper
- Staplers and/or glue sticks
- Plastic bags
- Paper lunch bags
- Copies of food item pictures
Suggested Companion Resources:
- Dozen - 12
- Field corn – major variety of corn grown in Iowa. Used in feed for livestock, to make ethanol, and used for human consumption (cornmeal, corn flour, corn syrup).
- Bale – large bundle of straw or hay tightly compressed by twine prepared for shipping or sale
- Sweet corn – variety of corn eaten fresh
- Acre – measure of land, approximately the size of a football field
- Bushel – measure of grain, approximately the size of a small laundry basket
Background – Agricultural Connections:
Iowa is well-known for farming in agriculture! Everything we eat and nearly everything that we use is made from something that came from a farm. Plants and animals raised on farms are used for food, fiber, fuel.
This lesson introduces students to the plants and animals raised on farms in Iowa by using an agriculture spin an a familiar book, the Very Hungry Caterpillar. Students can either construct the paper caterpillar individually, in small groups, or as a whole class. If constructing individual caterpillars with young students, consider building the paper chains in advance so the students only need to glue the pictures on OR doing lesson over several days (adding 1-3 chains per day).
Interest Approach or Motivator:
What did you eat yesterday? Last week? Could you eat as much as a hungry caterpillar? Students will learn vocabulary and learn about different agricultural products with this engaging activity. The story will come to life as you read and students construct their caterpillar.
Note: This activity can be done as a class, in small groups, or individual.
- Preparing the Activity.
- Cut up strips of red and green construction paper that can be used to make a paper chain (9 green and 1 red per student). It works best if you cut the construction paper into short, wide strips rather than long, narrow strips (so cut the sheet while looking at it horizontally).
- Cut out each black and white food item picture (every student needs all the pictures so the document would need to be copied for each student in the class).
- Cut out one butterfly for each student in the class.
- Place the construction paper, the cut out food items, scissors, a glue stick, a dark colored marker, and stapler (optional) into a plastic bag.
- If desired, you can just place full sheets of construction paper and the sheets of paper that have the food items on them in the bag and have students cut their own supplies.
- Put each butterfly into separate lunch sack size paper bags and place one of these paper bags into each plastic bag used in step 4.
- Make sure you have The Very Hungry Iowa Caterpillar book and the Fun Facts that go with it.
- Doing the Activity
- Start reading The Very Hungry Iowa Caterpillar book to students. After the first two pages have students take their one strip of red construction paper and make a circle out of it to be the beginning of their paper chain (use a stapler to staple the two ends of the paper together). Have them draw a picture of a caterpillar face on it.
- If desired, you can just use a glue stick to keep the two ends together.
- Continue reading the story. After the third page is read (Monday) have students glue that food item (one dozen eggs) onto a piece of green construction paper and loop that construction paper through the red circle to make a second link to the paper chain. While they are doing that, read the fun facts about eggs that are in Ag Facts section of the lesson plan.
- Continue reading the story and adding a food item for each day. Tell students the fun facts as you go along while they are cutting, gluing and stapling. You should have 1 red and 5 green links to the chain after finishing Friday.
- When you get to Saturday, have students put multiple pictures on one green sheet. All the food items on Saturday should take a total of 3 green sheets. Read the fun facts as you go along. By the time you finish Saturday your caterpillar should have 1 red link and 8 green links.
- Finish the caterpillar by adding one last green sheet that has the picture of milkweed on it after reading that part of the story.
- While reading the page about the chrysalis have students place their caterpillars into their paper bags and shake them up. When you get to the page about the butterfly have them reach into their bags and pull out the butterfly.
Did you know? (Ag facts):
- One Dozen Eggs: Start off the discussion by asking students where eggs come from.
- Iowa is the top egg producing state of the nation.
- Only female chickens (called hens) lay eggs.
- A chicken lays one egg every 26 hours - a total of 279 eggs per year.
- The color of an egg’s shell is the same color as the hen’s earlobe.
- Two Turkey Sandwiches: We eat domesticated turkeys which are not the wild kind we think of at Thanksgiving time. They are actually farmed and raised in masses. They gain so much weight that they are unable to fly.
- Turkeys are separated by gender. A tom is a male turkey. A hen is female.
- A baby turkey is called a poult.
- Iowa farmers produce approximately 8.2 million turkeys and they supply 80% of all Subway stores with their turkey meat.
- Three Ears of Field Corn: Most of the corn grown in Iowa is not sweet corn but rather field corn that is used to feed cattle and make food products for humans.
- Iowa is the top producing state of field (also called dent) corn.
- Corn is what makes egg yolks yellow.
- Corn is used to make many popular foods such as corn chips and cereal.
- One Pound of Bacon: Explain that bacon comes from pigs. It comes from the fat on the sides of their bellies. Iowa has 6 hogs for every person in the state.
- Almost one fourth of all pigs in the nation are grown in Iowa.
- Hogs weigh 275 pounds at harvest time.
- 69% of all food service operations serve bacon.
- The average pig will produce more than 23 pounds of bacon.
- Ten Soybeans: Soybean plants are the short plants (3-5 feet) with lots of leaves growing in many of the fields in Iowa. Soybeans are grown in pods (60-80 pods per plant with 3-4 soybeans per pod).
- Many school buses are powered by soy biodiesel.
- One acre (size of a football field) of soybeans produces 82,000 crayons.
- Ink is made out of soybeans that is used to print newspapers and books.
- Soybeans were used to make the frame of the original Ford cars.
- Elevators in the Statue of Liberty use a soybean-based hydraulic fluid.
- 1 Bale of Hay: Hay is a lot like grass. Farmers mow it then rake it into rows that are fluffy. When it dries, a big machine makes it into a round or square bale.
- Hay and straw are not the same thing. Straw is golden in color. Hay is more greenish or tannish.
- Hay is much more nutritional so it is used for feed. Straw is used for bedding for animals or insulation for a house.
- 5 Potatoes: Iowa has great growing conditions for potatoes but they are generally not grown in huge fields like corn and soybeans. They are not a top producer of potatoes. Idaho, Washington and Wisconsin are the top producers.
- The potato is the fourth largest food crop in the world.
- French fries are made from potatoes.
- The potato was the first vegetable grown in space.
- 1 Pepperoni Pizza: Many of the ingredients that make up pizza comes from a farm/garden.
- Pepperoni’s commonly come from pigs but turkey and steer meet is also used. It comes from the stomach of the pig.
- Pepperoni is the most popular pizza topping in the US.
- About 350 slices of pizza are consumed every second in the US.
- 93% of Americans eat at least one pizza every month.
- Each American eats about 23 pounds of pizza every year.
- 6 Chicken Nuggets: The chickens that we eat are very different than the chickens that lay eggs. They are called broilers. Although Iowa is the number one egg producer, they aren’t even in the top 10 for broiler production.
- There are more chickens living on Earth than people.
- Laid head to claw, all the chickens consumed from KFC worldwide would circle the Earth at the equator 11 times.
- Chickens only weigh 4-6 pounds when market ready.
- 1 Acre of Wheat: There is very little wheat grown in Iowa because our land is not dry or cold enough. However, wheat is grown on more land worldwide than any other crop. It is the third most produced crop.
- 70% of US wheat is winter wheat meaning it goes in the ground in the fall. It is then dormant throughout the winter and begins to grow in late winter.
- A processing plant for making pasta products from wheat is in Ames.
- Wheat is mainly used for human food.
- 1 Watermelon: Watermelons are grown in warm, moist soils. Iowa is a great place to grow watermelons in mid-May (usually on hills). They are often grown in home gardens and by farmers to take to the Farmers Market.
- A watermelon is 92% water and 6% sugar.
- All parts of a watermelon can be eaten, even the rind which is used as vegetable and stir-fried in other countries.
- Farmers have started to grow cube shaped watermelons in glass boxes.
- 1 Bushel of Popcorn: Some of JollyTime’s popcorn is grown in Iowa (various other companies are in Iowa too). Nebraska produces more popcorn than any other state. A popcorn kernel is smaller than a field corn kernel.
- Popcorn pops because it contains water in its center that boils and turns to steam when heated which creates pressure causing it to pop!
- American’s eat enough popcorn in one year to fill the Empire State Building 18 times.
- Orville Redenbacher started popping corn in 1919 at 12 years of age. In ancient times they would heat sand in a fire then stir kernels into the sand.
- 1 Pound of Cheese: Cheese is made with milk that comes from dairy cows. Iowa is 7th in number of dairy herds as well as cheese production (240 million pounds of cheese produced each year).
- It takes 10 pounds of milk to make 1 pound of cheese.
- Chevre is the name for goat milk cheese.
- The US produces more than 25% of the world’s cheese supply.
- 1 Pound Hamburger: Iowa is ranked 6th in the nation for beef production with 30,000 operations.
- Hamburger from a single steer will make 720 quarter-pound hamburgers.
- Iowa ranks 2nd in the nation for red meat production.
- One cowhide can produce enough leather to make 20 footballs, 18 soccer balls, 18 volleyballs or 12 basketballs.
- 1 Acre of Oats: Oats grow in cooler climates with lots of rainfall. Some are grown in Iowa.
- Quaker Oats is in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. It is the largest cereal company in the world.
- Oats are primarily used to feed livestock, specifically horses.
- They are planted in pastures or baled for hay.
- Only about 5 percent of oats are consumed by humans as food sources, such as oatmeal.
- 12 Ears of Sweet Corn: Sweet corn is grown in small plots around Iowa. It can be eaten without being processed.
- Sweet corn is a result of changes in field corn to make the kernel store more sugar inside it. Their kernels are smaller than field corns.
- Sweet corn leaves were used at chewing gum by Native Americans.
- Sweet corn is grown and ready for harvest in 65-90 days.
- The tassel at the top of the stalk is the boy part and the silk at the end of the ear is the female part.
- 3 Cans of Pop: Corn is grown widely in Iowa and is then sold to be changed into something else, like a can of pop.
- A bushel of corn can sweeten 400 cans of soda.
- You can’t tell the difference between sugar and high fructose corn syrup made from corn, nor is one healthier.
- 1 Big Apple: Iowa is the birthplace of Red Delicious Apples. Apples are grown on trees.
- Apple trees take 4-5 years to produce their first fruit.
- Apples ripen 6-10 times faster at room temperature than if they are refrigerated.
- It takes 36 apples to create one gallon of apple juice.
Polk County Farm Bureau
Iowa Core Standards:
English Language Arts:
- RL.K.1. With prompting and support, ask and answer questions about key details in a text.
- RL .K.10. Actively engage in group reading activities with purpose and understanding.
- SL.K.2: Confirm understanding of a text read aloud or information presented orally or through other media by asking and answering questions about key details and not requesting clarification if something is not understood.
- SL.K.1. Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about kindergarten topics and text with peers and adults in small and larger groups.
- SL.K.2. Confirm understanding of a text read aloud or information presented orally through other media by asking and answering questions about key details and requesting clarification if something is not understood.
- RL.1.1. With prompting and support, ask and answer questions about key details in a text.
- SL.1.1. Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about grade 2 topics and text with peers and adults in small and larger groups.
- SL.1.2. Ask and answer questions about key details om a text read in a text read aloud or information presented orally or through media.
- RL.2.1.Ask and answer questions such as who, what, when, where, why, and how to demonstrate understanding of key details in a text.
- SL.2.1. Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about grade 2 topics and text with peers and adults in small and larger groups.
- Social Studies
- SS.K.14. Compare environmental characteristics in Iowa with other places.
- SS.1.11. Compare the goods and services that people in the local community produce with those that are produced in other communities.
- SS.1.13. Explain why people have different jobs in the community. (21st century skills)
- SS.1.17. Describe how environmental characteristics and cultural characteristics impact each other in different regions of the U.S.
- SS.1.19. Compare how people in different types of communities use goods from local and distant places to meet their daily needs.
- SS.2.12. Identify how people use natural resources to produce goods and services.
- K.CC.B. Counting to tell the number of object.
- K.CC.B. Counting to tell the number of object.
- 21st Century Skills
- 21.K-2.ES.4Develop initiative and demonstrate self-direction in activities.21.9-12.HL.5
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