Target Grade Level / Age Range:

3 rd-5 th Grades


30 – 45 minutes


Students will show understanding that humans are dependent on plants and animals for many purposes and that many of these resources come from agriculture.


  • Word cards printed on two different colors of paper
  • Scissors
  • Issue 1 ”Iowa Ag Today”
  • Flashlight and batteries
  • Chart paper and markers

Suggested Companion Resources (books, websites, etc.)

Vocabulary (with definitions)

  • Dependency – the state of relying on someone or something else for aid, support, etc.
  • Agriculture – the business, science, and practices of growing and selling plants and animals to be used for food, fiber, and fuel.

Interest Approach or Motivator:

Attract students’ attention by passing around a flashlight with no batteries in it. Have the class discuss as a whole possible reasons why there is no light coming from the flashlight. Reveal that the batteries have been taken out, and because the flashlight depends on batteries to work, it can’t produce light. Have students suggest some examples of things that humans depend on. Some examples could be: a car to get to work or school, food for energy, water for hydration, each other for teamwork and support.

Background – Agricultural Connections (what would a teacher need to know before teaching this lesson):

Plants grown by farmers become medicines, spices, clothing, paper products, and building materials. These products are things that humans have come to depend on, and without the work of a farmer and those in agriculture, the plants wouldn’t be grown and the products wouldn’t be produced.

Iowa farmers raise more corn, soybeans, pork, and eggs than farmers in any other state. We rely on Iowa farmers for products like ethanol, biodiesel, feed for livestock, eggs, bacon, and by-products like insulin and gelatin that are found in many common products.

Not all plants and animals directly benefit humans, but we still rely on them. Earthworms keep our soil healthy, and they need plant organic matter to compost. We need them to have good soils to grow plants to eat. Pollinators like bees and butterflies aren’t insects that humans eat, but without them, we wouldn’t have any produce that requires pollination by insect to fruit. Nearly 1/3 of our food requires insect pollination, and that includes products like cucumbers and kiwifruits.

Procedures (main points, step by step activities, and the full content to be presented to students)

  1. Print out and cut the word cards. Plants should be printed on one color paper, and animals should be printed on another.
  2. Pass out cards to students – one to each student. Give students an example of the activity by selecting a student holding a plant card and a student holding an animal card. See if they can come up with ideas on how those two living things depend on each other. For example: Pigs rely on and eat field corn, soybeans, oats, and sometimes sugar beets.
  3. One at a time, ask the animal card holders to try and find plant card holders in the room that they would depend on. Some animals, like beef cattle, may have more than one plant they eat (corn, soybeans, oats) while others, like shrimp, will only find one plant that they rely on.
    1. Once students feel they have found their match(es), have them stand in the front.
    2. Ask students to explain how the animal relies on the plant(s)
    3. How do humans rely on the plant or animal (or both). 
    4. There are many possible solutions to this exercise, but here is a suggested key:
      1. Beef cow: grass, field corn, soybeans, hay, oats
      2. Dairy cow: hay, field corn, soybeans, oats
      3. Pig: field corn, soybeans, oats, sugar beets
      4. Sheep: hay, oats, wheat, field corn, soybeans, grass
      5. Chickens: soybeans, field corn
      6. Turkeys: soybeans, field corn
      7. Goats: hay, oats, wheat, soybeans, grass
      8. Deer: grass
      9. Bison: grass
      10. Horses: oats, hay, grass, field corn
      11. Fish: algae, field corn
      12. Shrimp: algae
      13. Bees: flowers
      14. Humans: sweet corn, oats, wheat, sugar beets
  4. Make the observation that most of the plants and animals from the word cards came from agriculture and if needed, go over the definition of agriculture.
  5. Read Iowa Ag Today. (“Iowa’s Powerhouse Crops & Livestock” and “A Tale of Two Kingdoms”) looking for examples of how humans are dependent on plants and animals as well as how they all are a part of agriculture.
  6. Compare the examples of dependency to the examples from the word cards.
  7. Check understanding of agriculture concepts by passing out prepared picture cards and have students negotiate how each photo or picture shows a connection to agriculture.
  8. Pass out the Connections to Agriculture Worksheet to students. Have them complete it as an in-class wrap-up activity or for homework. Students should fill out the left side of the chart with items they see around them or have used that day. They should fill out the right side of the chart with that item’s connection to agriculture.

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

Extension Activities (how can students extend learning outside of the classroom?)

  • Complete a worksheet with a chart that lists 10 items they used, wore, or ate afterschool and throughout the evening.  Students will identify each item’s connection to agriculture.
  • Write a poem about how humans depend on plants and animals.
  • Research an example of something the student uses, wears, or eats and write a short paper explaining its connection to agriculture.
  • Explore animal by-products that are commonplace in our lives.


Adapted from Donna Oster – Elliott Elementary School, Griswold Schools, Iowa


Kelsey Faivre, IALF

National Agriculture Literacy Outcomes

  • Theme 1: Agriculture and the Environment
    • Recognize the natural resources used in agricultural practices to produce food,· feed, clothing, landscaping plants, and fuel (e.g., soil, water, air, plants, animals, and minerals)
  • Theme 5: Culture, Society, Economy & Geography
    • Explain the value of agriculture and how it is important in daily life

Iowa Core Standards

  • Science
    • 3-SL1-1: Develop models to describe that organisms have unique and diverse life cycles but all have in common birth, growth, reproduction, and death. 
  • Social Studies:
    • SS.3.13. Identify how people use natural resources, human resources, and physical capital to produce goods and services.
  • English Language Arts Literacy
    • RI.3.IA.1. Employ the full range of research-based comprehension strategies, including making connections, determining importance, questioning, visualizing, making inferences, summarizing, and monitoring for comprehension.
    • RI.3.5. Use text features and search tools (e.g., key words, sidebars, hyperlinks) to locate information relevant to a given topic efficiently.
    • W.3.2. Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.
    • SL.3.1. Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one–on–one, in groups, and teacher–led) with diverse partners on  grade 3 topics and texts , building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.
    • SL.3.2. Determine the main ideas and supporting details of a text read aloud or information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
    • L.3.1. Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
    • L.3.2. Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.
    • L.3.3. Use knowledge of language and its conventions when writing, speaking, reading, or listening.
  • 21 st Century Skills
    • Demonstrate productivity and accountability by producing quality work. 21.3–5.ES.5
    • Utilize digital tools and resources to investigate real–world issues, answer questions, or solve problems. 21.3–5.TL.

Creative Commons License

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