Target Grade Level / Age Range



Two 45-minute lessons


By the end of this lesson, students will be able to:

  1. understand the journey of dairy products, like ice cream.
  2. use sequencing skills.


  • Index cards
  • Crayons
  • Chart paper
  • Ice Cream; The Full Scoop by Gail Gibbons
  • Cow to Cone Worksheet
  • Supplies to make ice cream in a bag:
    • Half and half
    • Sugar
    • Vanilla
    • Ziploc sandwich bags
    • Ziploc gallon bags
    • Crushed ice
    • Rock salt
    • Spoons
    • Measuring cups, a tablespoon, and a teaspoon
  • Picture journal paper

Suggested Companion Resources (books and websites)

  • Cow by Jules Older
  • Cows by Peter Brady
  • The Milk Makers by Gail Gibbons
  • A Day at our Dairy Farm by Barbara Reeves
  • Milk Comes From a Cow by Dan Funk
  • Clarabelle Making Milk and So Much More by Cris Peterson
  • Western Iowa Dairy Alliance:


  • Scraper – mixes the ice crystals with the cream in a hand-cranked ice cream maker
  • Dasher – stirs air bubbles into the ice cream mix, this makes it lighter and softer
  • Crank – turns the dasher in the ice cream maker to stir the ice cream
  • Separator – at the dairy, this is where the cream and milk are separated from each other
  • Mixing vat – where the cream, milk, and sugar are mixed
  • Milking machine – the machine that hooks up to cows’ udders and collects milk
  • Bulk tank – the tank where milk is stored before it is taken to a factory 

Background – Agricultural Connections

This lesson is set up as a sequencing activity with language arts skills first, and the ability to make ice cream later.

One of the key aspects of this lesson is understanding how milk gets from the cow to the ice cream.

First, cows are milked, usually twice a day. However, cows don’t always need to be 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 eight 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 bulk tank. 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.

More information on the dairy process can be found here:

Interest Approach or Motivator

  • Lesson 1 – Ask the children, “What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?” Give each child an index card and demonstrate how to make a cone shape with a circle (the ice cream scoop) on top. Have the children color this like their favorite ice cream flavor.
  • Lesson 2 – Ask the children, “Who wants to make ice cream?”    


Lesson 1:

  1. After the children make their ice cream cone on the index card, tape the cards to the chart paper to make a graph showing their favorite flavors. Have the students identify which flavor is the most popular.
  2. Read the book – Ice Cream; The Full Scoop by Gail Gibbons.
    1. If this book is not available, there are other dairy-related books available through IALF’s Lending Library. Some alternate titles may include A Day at our Dairy Farm, Clarabelle; Making Milk and so Much More, Cows, or Milk Comes from a Cow.
  3. After reading the book, have the children tell you what they learned from the story and record their responses on chart paper.
    1. Help the students walk through how ice cream is made. Are there ice cream cows? No, a cow’s milk is made into ice cream. Help them think through the process from cow to ice cream.
  4. Give each child the Cow to Cone sequencing worksheet. Help them sequence the Cow to Cone story correctly.
    1. The correct numbering for the pages should be: 1, 7, 6, 3, 8, 2, 5, 4.
  5. Have the children read the final story from the Cow to Cone Worksheet with a partner, or out loud as a class.
  6. Ask the students how the book was different from Bessie’s story. How was it the same? What did they learn about dairy cows and ice cream?

Lesson 2:

  1. Tell the students they are going to make their own ice cream and then go over the procedure.
    1. If possible, have extra helpers in your classroom for this. It would be helpful to split the children up into small groups for this activity.
  2. Recipe for Ice Cream in a Bag:
    1. Each student will put ½ cup half and half, 1T sugar, and ¼ t vanilla into a sandwich size Ziploc bag. Make sure it is closed tight.
    2. Put 3 cups crushed ice and 1/3 cup rock salt into a gallon size Ziploc bag.
    3. Place the sealed sandwich bag into a gallon bag and seal.
    4. Squeeze bag for about 10-15 minutes and ice cream will thicken.
    5. Eat the ice cream right out of the sandwich bag!
  3. When finished with the ice cream the children will write what their favorite ice cream treat is and illustrate their sentence.

Essential Files (maps, charts, pictures, or documents)

Did You Know? (Ag facts)

  • Some believe the first ice cream was made in China about 3,000 years ago.
  • Cows are milked 2- 3 times a day.
  • Jersey cows give creamier milk than others.
  • Iowa is the 4th largest producing ice cream state.

Extension Activities

  • Visit a dairy farm, or contact a dairy farmer to attend virtually through a video chat.
  • Visit the Launchpad Children’s Museum  


  • Ice Cream; The Full Scoop by Gail Gibbons
  • The Mailbox Magazine, June/July 2005, Kindergarten to First Grade Edition  


Barb Swanson  

Organization Affiliation

Holy Cross/St. Michael Center

National Agriculture Literacy Outcomes

  • Plants and Animals for Food, Fiber & Energy :
    • T2.K-2    b. Identify animals involved in agricultural production and their uses [i.e., work, meat, dairy, eggs].
  • Food, Health, & Lifestyle :
    • T3.K-2    b.   Recognize that agriculture provides our most basic necessities. 
  • Culture, Society, Economy & Geography:
    • T5.K-2    d.  Identify plants or animals grown or raised locally that are used for food, clothing, shelter, or landscape.
    • T5.K-2     f.  Trace the sources of agricultural products used daily.

Iowa Core Standards

  • Science:
    • K-LS1-1: Use observations to describe patterns of what plants and animals need to survive.
  • Language Arts:
    • RI.K.1: With prompting and support, ask and answer questions about key details in a text.
    • RI.K.5: Identify the front cover, back cover, and title page of a book.
    • RF.K-4: Read emergent reader texts with purpose and understanding.
    • W.K.2: Use a combination of writing, drawing, dictating to compose informative/explanatory texts in which they name what they are writing about and supply some information about the topic.
  • Math:
    • K.CC.C.6: Identify whether the number of objects in one group is greater than, less than, or equal to the number of objects in another group.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.