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Growing Almonds: Fact or Opinion

Grade Levels

3 - 5

Purpose

Students investigate the process of getting almonds from farm to table and distinguish the difference between facts and opinions as they explore about each stage and season of almond growth. Grades 3-5

Estimated Time

Two 50-minute lessons plus additional time for writing

Materials Needed
Essential File (map, chart, picture, or document)
Vocabulary Words

dormant: not active but able to become active

hull: the protective outer covering of a fruit or seed

orchard: a place where fruit or tree nuts are grown

pollinate: to carry pollen from the anther to the stigma of a flower

Did You Know? (Ag Facts)
  • Almonds like hot summers and cool winters to grow.1
  • Almonds only grow if bees pollinate the blossoms in the spring.1
  • Almonds can be eaten whole, sliced, slivered, as flour, milk, butter, or oil.2
  • Each fruit of the almond tree has 3 parts, which are all used. The hull is fed to livestock, the shell is used for livestock bedding, and the kernel is what we eat.3
Background Agricultural Connections

This lesson plan is part of a five-lesson series for grades 3-5 which teaches about agriculture by focusing on all aspects of the almond industry. Students will learn about the people involved in growing almonds, development of almond trees and nuts, almond processing, different uses of almonds, almond history and nutritional information. Almonds are an important commodity in California agriculture. Approximately 6,800 growers located throughout the Central Valley of California produce close to two billion pounds of almonds each year. California produces more than 80% of the world’s almonds and virtually 100% of the domestic supply. Lessons in this series include:

Producing almonds is a year-long process. Almond growers pay special attention to the almond trees in their orchard to make sure they are thriving all year long. Almond trees begin their cycle in a dormant state, which usually lasts from November to February. Once spring arrives, the almond trees burst into bloom and the bees come to pollinate. From March to June, the almond kernel is developing and hardening. In July, once the kernel has grown to its full potential, it goes into the hullsplit phase where the outside hull (the soft, pliable protective layer) splits open. In late summer, the almond trees are harvested and the almonds are transported to the processing plant, where the almonds later get shipped around the world. 

Who grows almonds?

The almond industry is driven by family farmers. More than 91% of almond farms are family farms – many operated by third and fourth generation farmers who plan to pass down their land and way of life to their children and grandchildren. Having lived – and often grown up – on the land, they understand the importance of managing their orchards and natural resources responsibly for current and future generations.4

What irrigation do almond growers use?

83% of almond growers practice demand-based irrigation, tracking items like soil moisture, tree water status or weather conditions to determine when to irrigate their orchards rather than watering on a predetermined schedule. 70% of almond orchards use micro irrigation systems (think mini-sprinklers for the trees), decreasing water runoff, putting water directly in the root zone and allowing for precise timing and rate of irrigation. 62% of growers use soil maps while designing their irrigation systems to best match the soil characteristics of their orchards for optimal water infiltration and distribution.5

Do almonds use more water than other crops?

The fact is most fruit and nut trees in California use about the same amounts of water.6 But what’s extraordinary is what almond growers in California are doing to increase water efficiency. They were early adopters of water-saving micro-irrigation and other technologies that have helped reduce the amount of water it takes to grow a pound of almonds by 33% since 1994.7

What other products come from almond trees?

Almond trees, and the water used to grow them, actually produce three products, two of which are foods. Shells are used as an alternate energy source in co-generation plants and as livestock bedding. The hull is the dry and fuzzy fruit that protects the almond when it’s growing. Hulls are sold as livestock feed, which reduces the amount of water used to grow other feed crops. The kernel is the nutrient-rich almond we eat.4

Interest Approach - Engagement
  1. Tell your students that you will be giving them a list of clues to introduce the topic of the lesson. Instruct students to raise their hand when they think they know what it is. Give the following clues:
    • It is a food you can eat.
    • It grows on a farm in a place called an orchard.
    • It grows on a tree.
    • Without bees, this food would not grow.
    • The entire domestic (within the United States) supply of this food is grown in the state of California.
    • While growing on the tree, this food has an outer shell called a hull. (display picture)
    • Inside the hull, you will find a shell. (display picture)
    • Inside the shell, what will you find? (an almond!)
  2. Inform students that they will be learning about the process of growing almonds and the steps it takes to get them from the farm to our dinner tables.
Procedures
  1. Discuss what students already know about almonds and what they want to know. Write answers on the KWL chart.
  2. Watch the Almond Story video. Add new information to the KWL chart.
  3. Show the Almond Life Cycle slides on the Almond Board of California’s website
    1. November through February, almond trees go through a period of dormancy that allows them to store nutrients.
    2. Between February and early March almond trees begin to bloom. Different varieties bloom at different times.
    3. Most almond trees need pollination so bees are brought to the orchard to carry pollen and pollinate the almond blossoms, which is the first start to crop development.
    4. From March to June, almonds grow and mature, with the outer shell (hull) hardening and the kernel developing.
    5. During July and August, the hulls begin to split which allows the almond shell to begin to dry. Right before harvest the hull opens completely.
    6. From August to October, harvest begins. Harvest equipment called shakers come into the orchard and clamp the trunk of the trees. They shake the tree vigorously (for 3-4 seconds) and the almonds fall to the ground. The almonds stay on the ground for a little over a week and then are swept into rows by another piece of equipment called a sweeper.
      • Optional: Students saw a shaker in the Almond Story video, but you may also show them an additional video of a shaker machine at work.
    7. Next, almonds are picked up by a harvester, transferred into a trailer and hauled to a huller/sheller facility where they go onto a conveyer belt and the hull and shell are separated from the almond kernels. The almonds are also separated out according to size.
    8. After hulling and separating, almonds are stored until they are shipped or processed further.
  4. As a class, have students read and complete page 12, a Busy Little Almond, in their activity books. Add to KWL chart.
  5. Discuss or review the meaning of fact and opinion. A fact is a statement that is true and can be proven. An opinion is a statement based on a belief or how someone feels and can’t be proven. Have students practice by using the Factual Frank and Opinion Opie worksheet. Have students complete the page and discuss.
  6. Clarify what students have learned about almonds so far. Add to “learned” column of KWL chart.
  7. Have students write an opinion or informative essay on almonds. Students may focus on harvest or another area from their almond activity book. Student papers should have an introduction, include reasons or facts, include linking words and domain specific vocabulary, as well as have a conclusion. Have students present their paper.

Concept Elaboration and Evaluation

After conducting these activities, review and summarize the following key concepts:

  • Nearly all almonds consumed in the United States were grown in California. In addition, California exports a large quantity of almonds to other countries throughout the world.
  • California grows a large quantity of almonds because the climate (weather) is ideal for almond growth. Almond trees prefer cool winters and hot summers.
  • Almonds grow on trees. They begin their development in the spring when bees pollinate almond blossoms to allow them to grow through the spring and summer until they are harvested.
  • Almonds can be eaten fresh or turned into almond butter, milk, or flour.
Enriching Activities
  • Record student or group presentations and watch as a class. Have students give feedback on the presentations.

  • Have student groups make posters about almond harvest. Students should illustrate their posters. Have students present their posters. Display posters in your classroom.

  • Have students create a Fact or Opinion class quiz.

  • Have students read and complete pages 11 and 20, People in the Almond Industry and Nuts about Recycling in their Almond Story activity book. After students finish, ask them to re-read the pages, this time looking for fact and opinion. Students should find and underline fact or opinion statements on the activity book pages and discuss with a partner.

  • For a lesson teaching further about the importance of bees and pollination, see Honey Bees: A Pollination Simulation.

  • View the Almond Harvesting: Shaking, Sweeping, Harvesting & Stock Piling and Almond Processing: Pre-Cleaning, Hulling/Shelling & Processing videos to learn more about almond harvesting and processing.

Sources
  1. http://foodconfidence.com/2013/09/18/eat-almonds/
  2. http://www.almonds.com/consumers/about-almonds/almond-forms
  3. http://www.almonds.com/consumers/about-almonds/sustainability
  4. United States Department of Agriculture, 2012 Census of Agriculture: Subject Series, Typology, Table 6.
  5. California Almond Sustainability Program.
  6. California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Irrigation Training and Research Center. ITRC Report No. 03-001: California Crop and Soil Evapotranspiration. ETc Tables 1-13. January 2003.
  7. University of California, 2010. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2012 Almond Board of California, 1990-94, 2000-14.
Acknowledgements
  • Original Development Team: Laceyanne Sullivan Chojnacki and Jennifer Dickey
  • Executive Director: Judy Culbertson
  • Layout and Design: Nina Danner, Lyn Hyatt, and Jennifer Ray

The original concept for California Almonds: An Almond Story was developed by participants in the Almond Board of California’s Almond Leadership Program. The lesson plans were further developed by California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom with support from the Almond Board of California.

Author

Rebecca Bailey, Mary Pat Jones, Jenny Nicolau, and DeAnn Tenhunfeld

Organization Affiliation

California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom

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