National Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix
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The purpose of this lesson is to review the functions of plant leaves and to develop an understanding of leaves as edible parts of some plants. Many edible leaves are part of a healthy diet and are a good source of vitamin A.
- Leaf Tasting Investigation Worksheets for each student
- Handwashing area
- Butcher paper or chalkboard
- Five edible leaf samples: lettuce, kale, spinach, parsley, Swiss chard; for each group.
- Leaf Tasting Investigation handout
Essential Files (maps, charts, pictures, or documents)
diet: the kinds of food that a person, animal or community habitually eats
farmer: a person who produces food, fiber, or plants for others to use
photosynthesis: the process by which plants make their food using sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide
Did you know? (Ag Facts)
- Kale is considered to be closer to wild cabbage than most domesticated forms of vegetables.
- Kale is an excellent source of vitamin K, which controls inflammation in the body.
- Although paler in color than other leafy greens, cabbage is a great source of cancer-fighting compounds and vitamin C.
- Iceberg lettuce is mostly water, but it is the most popular leafy green in the United States. American eat about 17 pounds of it every year.
Background Agricultural Connections
Interest Approach – Engagement
- Draw a basic diagram of your body. Circle the areas or draw arrows to identify parts of your body which benefit from the nutrients in leafy green vegetables and list the benefit (e.g., vitamin A assists with good vision).
- Describe why it is important to eat fresh vegetables (like leafy, green vegetables) rather than just taking a vitamin or only eating fortified foods.
- Discuss the functions of plant leaves with your class. Possible topics include making food for the plant, decomposing and adding nutrients to the soil, and providing habitats for animals. After you talk about the functions of leaves, ask your students if they can think of any edible leaves that people like to eat. Make a list on the board. Explain that leafy greens are part of a healthy diet. Students ages 4-8 need 1 ½ cups of vegetables per day and students ages 9-13 need 2 to 2 ½ cups of vegetables per day. Two cups of raw leafy greens is considered one cup from the vegetable group.
- Tell your students that today they are going to investigate five different types of edible leaves, by tasting, smelling, measuring, and observing. They will also compare their nutritional value by looking at their levels of vitamin A per serving.
- Tell students that vitamin A is important for maintaining good vision, fighting infection, supporting cell growth, and keeping skin healthy. Research has shown that consuming foods rich in vitamin A may even prevent some kinds of cancer.
- Organize students into groups of three or four and have them wash their hands before sitting in their seats. Distribute worksheets to each student and tell them that they will be using the Leaf Tasting Investigation Chart for the next part of the lesson.
- Show your class one edible leaf and show them where it is listed on the chart. Demonstrate how you would like each group to record the color, texture, smell, taste, and length of each leaf in the chart. Use a ruler to measure the length of each leaf. Examples of texture could include smooth, fuzzy, bumpy, sandpapery, slippery, etc. Be sure to discuss possible vocabulary with your students before they begin describing leaf texture, smell, and taste. Distribute a washed sample of the leaf to each group and guide them through the data collection. When students have recorded data in their charts, instruct them to tear off a small piece of the leaf to taste.
- Repeat this procedure with the remaining four leaves and have students fill out the questions on the chart.
- Have students fill in their chart to compare the vitamin A levels of the five leaves they tasted in part one. Students should use the chart template on the back page of their tasting chart.
- Write these vitamin A % values on the board for all students to see (see table above).
- Go through one example with the class and then have them work in their groups to fill in the bar graphs for the remaining leaves. Discuss which edible leaves are the best source of vitamin A and why this is an important nutrient.
Concept Elaboration and Evaluation
After conducting this activity, review and summarize the following key concepts:
- Farmers grow some plants for their edible leaves.
- Many edible leaves are a delicious source of vitamin A, and many other nutrients that are important in a healthy diet.
- Model the Think, Pair, Share method: Have students turn to a partner and say, "What kind of leaves do we eat?" Explain that their partner should then respond, "We eat lettuce, spinach, and other examples."
- When introducing new vocabulary words, show students an example of the object.
- Make a "word wall" of new vocabulary and have students cut out pictures from magazines to match the vocabulary words.
Give each student a leaf and a crayon. Instruct students to remove the paper wrapping from the crayon. Have each student make a leaf rubbing by placing the leaf under a piece of paper and then rubbing the side of their crayon over the top of the paper. The image of the leaf will be visible. Mount the rubbings on colorful paper.
Bring in fresh and dried herbs. Discuss how they look and taste.
Make an edible leaf salad that the whole class can enjoy at the end of the lesson. For homework, have students track how many servings of leafy greens their family eats in a week.
Discuss the following chart with the class and research why these nutrients are important in a healthy diet.
There are many nutritional benefits of eating fresh, green, leafy produce!
Have students plant a lettuce or kale seed in a plastic cup. After the seedlings sprout, students can take them home to trasplant and share healthy, leafy greens with their families.
Suggested Companion Resources
- Edible Plant Game (Activity)
- What Do Plants Need to Grow? (Activity)
- A Weed Is a Flower: The Life of George Washington Carver (Book)
- How Things Grow (Book)
- Plants Feed Me (Book)
- Tops & Bottoms (Book)
- Farming in a Glove (Kit)
- The Real Reason Leaves Change Color in the Fall (Multimedia)
- Nutrition Ag Mag (Booklets & Readers)
Agricultural Literacy Outcomes
Food, Health, and Lifestyle
- Describe the necessary food components of a healthy diet using the current dietary guidelines (T3.3-5.a)
- Identify food sources of required food nutrients (T3.3-5.g)
Education Content Standards
Health Standard 1: Comprehend concepts related to health promotion and disease prevention to enhance health.
1.5.1Describe the relationship between healthy behaviors and personal health.
Common Core Connections
Reading: Anchor Standards
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.7Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.
Speaking and Listening: Anchor Standards
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.1Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
Writing: Anchor Standards
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.8Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.
Mathematics: Practice Standards
CCSS.MATH.PRACTICE.MP1Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them. Students start by explaining to themselves the meaning of a problem and looking for entry points to its solution. They analyze givens, constraints, relationships, and goals. They make conjectures about the form and meaning of the solution and plan a solution pathway rather than simply jumping into a solution attempt. They consider analogous problems, and try special cases and simpler forms of the original problem in order to gain insight into its solution. They monitor and evaluate their progress and change course if necessary. Students check their answers to problems using a different method, and they continually ask themselves, “Does this make sense?” They can understand the approaches of others to solving complex problems and identify correspondences between different approaches.
CCSS.MATH.PRACTICE.MP4Model with mathematics. Students can apply the mathematics they know to solve problems arising in everyday life, society, and the workplace. Students who can apply what they know are comfortable making assumptions and approximations to simplify a complicated situation, realizing that these may need revision later. They are able to identify important quantities in a practical situation and map their relationships using such tools as diagrams, two-way tables, graphs, flowcharts and formulas. They can analyze those relationships mathematically to draw conclusions.
National Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix (2013) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.