Neola, Iowa. – December 30, 2019 – Preschool, first, and second grade students at Tri-Center Community School learned all about evergreen trees with a Discover Christmas Trees lesson from Loess Hills Agriculture in the Classroom (LHAITC). The lesson was presented just prior to the students leaving on Christmas and holiday break.

Together, classes read the book, Life Cycle of a Pine Tree to illustrate to students how exactly a pine tree grows. From seed to sapling to sturdy tree that produces more pine cones, it is a process that can take many years. Sherri Olsen of West Pottawattamie Co. Farm Bureau and Melanie Bruck of Loess Hills Agriculture in the Classroom shared about three types of evergreen trees. Branches and seed cones were brought in to help the children realize that not every evergreen is a pine tree. The difference in the trees can be found in the needles. Pine tree needles come in packets of two or more needles bundled together. Both fir and spruce needles connect to the branch as individual needles. Fir tree needles are flat and spruce needles are square.

“Anytime you can bring in real examples of agriculture for students to explore, it is an educational win,” says Bruck. 

Iowa boast many different types of farms. Some, the students were very familiar with and were able to name typical farm animals. Pigs, sheep, goats, chickens, and horses were all animals that students might expect to find on a farm in Iowa. Students were surprised to learn that Iowa also has many Christmas tree farms including approximately one million acres growing about 15,000 trees.

The first and second grade classes read the book Christmas Farm by Mary Lyn Ray. The book is about a lady, and her neighbor who spent five years getting trees ready for people who didn’t have land where they could grow their own trees. For the preschool students, Olsen read the story The Littlest Christmas Tree about a young and hopeful tree who is excited about life’s possibilities, even if she is not chosen to be a Christmas tree.

“Students are never too young to begin thinking about where everyday items come from,” says Bruck. “Where did that Christmas tree in their homes come from? It could have come from right here, as part of Iowa agriculture.”

For more information, please visit

About Loess Hills Agriculture in the Classroom

Loess Hills Agriculture in the Classroom is a regional effort of the Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation (IALF) established August of 2018. 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 PK-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 PK-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