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National Agriculture in the Classroom

Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix

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Lesson Plans (17)

A Tale of Two Burgers: Beef and Plant-based Protein

Students will compare the components of beef and plant-based burgers by determining the production and processing methods of each product; evaluate the ingredients and nutritional differences between beef and plant-based products; and discuss different points of view in the agricultural industry concerning plant-based proteins and traditional beef. This lesson covers a socioscientific issue and aims to provide students with tools to evaluate science within the context of social and economic points of view. Grades 9-12

At Home on the Range

Students investigate rangelands by growing their own grass to represent a beef or sheep ranch. Grades 6-8

At Home on the Range

Students investigate rangelands by growing their own grass to represent a beef or sheep ranch. Grades 3-5

Beef Basics

Students explain the importance of the beef cattle industry, including the products cattle produce, the production process from farm to plate, and how cattle can utilize and obtain energy from grass and other forage. Grades 3-5

Beef: Making the Grade

Students will evaluate the USDA grading system for whole cuts of beef and discuss consumer preferences and nutritional differences between grain-finished and grass-finished beef. Students will also distinguish various labels on beef products and discuss reasons for the government’s involvement in agricultural production, processing and distribution of food. Grades 9-12

Build-a-Calf Workshop

Students explore concepts of heredity in beef cattle and identify dominant and recessive traits. Grades 3-5

Carbon Hoofprints: Cows and Climate Change

Students will explore the carbon cycle and evaluate the carbon footprint of cattle. Using critical thinking skills, students will use the Claim, Evidence, and Reasoning model to determine the effect of cows’ methane production on the environment and investigate the extent cattle contribute to climate change. Grades 9-12

Caring for the Land

Students explain why people have different opinions regarding soil management and identify cause and effect relationships relating to agriculture and the environment. Grades 3-5

Making a Brand for Ourselves the "Cowboy" Way

Students explore cowboy culture and history and research 19th-century Texas cattle trails by writing cowboy poetry, mapping historic cattle trails, and creating cattle brands. Grades 3-5

Milk or Meat? Beef or Dairy?

Students identify the differences between beef and dairy cattle and determine the commodities produced by each type of cattle. Grades K-2

Right This Very Minute

Students read Right This Very Minute—a table-to-farm book about food production and farming—and diagram the path of production for a processed product, study a map to discover where different commodities are grown, and write a thank-you letter to farmers in their local community. Grades 3-5

Roll of the Genes

Students explore how genes affect important traits such as growth, reproduction, disease resistance, and behavior and discover the responsibilities of an animal geneticist. Grades 3-5

Source Sleuth: Investigating Credible Sources About Beef

Students will discover why it is important to use credible sources, learn strategies for identifying credible sources, identify primary sources of information, and practice citing sources. Grades 6-8

The Cattle Drive and Westward Expansion

Students will gain a greater understanding of the historical context and purpose of the cattle drives that took place in the mid 1880s. Students will be able to explain the cause and effect relationships of life on the frontier including, population growth, and later the invention and use of barbed wire, refrigeration, and railroads. Grades 9-12

The QUEST for the Whole Enchilada

This lesson utilizes a process learning model to recognize how the Columbian Exchange and early Spanish explorers impacted the culture and cuisine of the Southwest United States. Students will participate in a food lab to make enchiladas and learn about the production of each ingredient. Grades 6-8

The Remarkable Ruminant

In this lesson, students will follow the farm to fork process of producing beef, learn how cattle and other ruminants convert grass into nutrient-rich foods such as milk and meat, discover ways cattle recycle food waste, and identify careers in the beef cattle industry. Grades 6-8

Where Does It Come From?

Students explore the connection between geography, climate, and the type of agriculture in an area by reading background information and census data about the agricultural commodities beef, potatoes, apples, wheat, corn, and milk. Grades 3-5

Companion Resources (32)

Beef Blasters
This activity introduces students to a unique and interesting sequence of events related to the nature of scientific discovery. They will explore how scientific discoveries evolve and often lead to unexpected outcomes. While researchers were trying to develop a method of tenderizing beef, they discovered that the process they were researching also decreased the harmful bacteria in meat by 40-60%. This activity teaches students about this process and how it was developed.
Lose a Million Bacteria The Game

Based on the popular TV game show, “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?”, this activity allows students to put their food safety knowledge to the test. It reinforces safe food handling practices, promotes cooperative learning, encourages class participation, and reviews food safety in a fun, interactive way. On Day 1, students create their own evaluation questions based on what they’ve learned from the Dr. X and the Quest for Food Safety video, activities, and labs. Then, on Day 2, they play the game, using the questions as an evaluation exercise.

The Very Hungry Western Caterpillar
Based off of Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar, this caterpillar takes a journey through the Western United States as he eats some of the most popular agriculture commodities in each state. This book can be made individually by students or used as a classroom copy. 
Beef Cattle in the Story of Agriculture
This book teaches about the production of beef from the beginning to the end. You will learn common terminology, breeds of beef cattle, about the life cycle of beef cattle, what they eat, how they grow, and much more.
Farm Animals
Farm Animals is a 32-page book filled with facts to learn about many types of farms and the animals that live there. The book includes real-life pictures and color illustrations. In addition to the text, each page includes a fun fact. Readers will learn why traditional farm animals such as beef cattle, dairy cattle, goats, sheep, chickens, and pigs are kept on farms. They will also learn why specialty farms raise ducks, geese, fish, and ostriches.
Lazy B: Growing Up on a Cattle Ranch in the American Southwest
Deep in the granite hills of eastern Arizona in 1880, H.C. Day founded the Lazy B Ranch, where US Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and her brother Alan spent their youth, a time they recall in this affectionate joint memoir. "We belonged to the Lazy B, and it belonged to each of us," write O'Connor and Day. This fascinating glimpse of life in the Southwest in the last century recounts an important time in American history, and provides an enduring portrait of an independent young woman on the brink of becoming one of the most prominent figures in America.
Levi's Lost Calf
Young Levi rides out one morning to bring the cattle home from the pasture. After a head count, Levi is surprised that one calf is missing. Little Red, his favorite heifer calf, is nowhere to be found. Determined to prove his independence—and locate Little Red, Levi rides out with his horse, Pepper, and Gus, his trusty dog, in tow. The three sleuths search high and low around the ranch in search for the calf. Little Red stays hidden as readers are introduced to a bevy of barnyard animals throughout the search. A kid-friendly recipe is added to compliment the adventure and bring the cowboy spirit home to the reader.
Little Joe
The novel Little Joe offers a realistic look at the bond between 9-year-old Eli Stegner and his Angus calf, Little Joe, as they prepare for the county fair -- and the beef auction that follows. Readers will be fascinated by the details of raising beef cattle and receive an in-depth account of life on the farm. 
My Family's Farm Book Series
Learn through the eyes of young farmers how animals are cared for, crops are raised, and renewable resources are used as they take you for a tour of their family's farm. This digital book series includes titles for beef, corn, soybeans, wind (energy), pigs, and apples.
The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin
When young Temple was diagnosed with autism, no one expected her to talk, let alone become one of the most powerful voices in modern science. Yet, the determined visual thinker did just that. Her unique mind allowed her to connect with animals in a special way, helping her invent groundbreaking improvements for farms around the globe!
Ranch Starter Kit

Need a great way to connect students to rangeland? Have them start their own ranch! This kit includes a classroom set of jiffy peat pellet pots and enough grass seed to fill each pot. As your class learns about cattle grazing throughout our history, each student will be able to see how grazing can help - or hurt - rangeland, and will understand the importance of keeping our lands healthy. Order this kit online from

Agricultural Fact and Activity Sheets
These fact sheets provide information on the history, production, top producing regions and economic values of various agricultural products and natural resources.  The activity sheets provide specific lesson ideas and fun facts for each topic. Commodities include agricultural water, alfalfa, almonds, artichokes, asparagus, avocados, beef, cantaloupes, carrots, citrus fruits, cling peaches, corn, cotton, cut flowers, dairy, dried plums, dry beans, forest resources, mushroom, pears, pistachios, nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, processing tomato, rice, strawberries, table grapes, walnuts.
Animal Facts
This three-page informational sheet describes the processes of how an animal grows, how it gets from the farm to the store, and what products are produced from that animal. Words and simple graphics are used to portray this information for beef cattle, pigs, chickens, sheep, and dairy cows. Text may be difficult for young readers but can be used by teachers as a basic resource for descriptive purposes.
Chew It Twice Poster
Did you know that a cow spends six hours eating and eight hours chewing its cud each day? Use this 25" x 32" activity poster to follow the path food takes on its way through the cow. Order this poster online from
Compliments of Cattle Poster
Meat isn't the only product that comes from beef cattle. The by-products of beef production are used to make numerous everyday items like lipstick, perfume, paint, crayons, leather balls, and more. This black line coloring sheet depicts cattle using items that come to us “compliments of cattle.” Students can color cattle doing things like playing basketball, repairing cars, and putting on lipstick. As they are coloring, students can check off the list of everyday items that are made from beef cattle by-products. Download the lesson plan "Beef Basics" for great classroom activities and a shopping list to create your own beef by-products kit.
Interactive Map Project
Use this interactive map to help students see how geography and climate affects the production of agricultural crops. The map has USDA statistics built in to allow your students to answer questions such as, "Which state(s) produce the most cattle?" "Where does [my state] rank nationally in corn production?" "What region of the United States produces the most cotton?" etc. There are many agricultural maps available including field crops such as corn, wheat, barley, and alfalfa in addition to fruit and vegetable crops, ornamental nursery crops, and livestock.
Livestock Cards
Double-sided cards representing four livestock species. These cards can add a reading supplement activity to lesson plans to help teach the basic principles about beef cattle, dairy cattle, pigs, and poultry. The cards can be printed from the attached PDF or ordered from the Nebraska Foundation for Agricultural Awareness.
Meat Cut Posters and Fact Cards
Purchase these colorful posters and fact cards to illustrate the wholesale and retail cuts of meat found in beef, lamb, pork, and chicken or print a black and white copy for use as a coloring page or an interactive notebook.
Where Does Your Cheeseburger Come From?
Do you know the source of the burger, bun and toppings that make a delicious cheeseburger?  This 11" x 17" student poster breaks down the cheeseburger ingredients to help students correlate the farm-to-fork path. These are available to educators free of charge from Minnesota Agriculture in the Classroom.
Who Makes the Best Burger?
This 42" x 25" bulletin board teaches students about the production of the ingredients in hamburgers. A large picture of a hamburger is featured in the middle of the bulletin board and pictures of the ingredients and their descriptions are in each corner. An envelope asking students to vote for "Who makes the best burger?" is included. The envelope can be removed after the voting to display the words "FARMERS and RANCHERS." The bulletin board is mailed in a reusable storage tube. Order this bulletin board online from
Beef Cattle PowerPoint
This PowerPoint includes basic profile information about the major beef cattle breeds in the United States. It includes the name and basic characteristics of each breed including frame size, breed origin, size, coat colors, etc.
Bon a la Beef Videos
Four professional video clips featuring elementary through high school students preparing recipes to educate students, teachers, and the public about beef, its nutritional value, and its proper handling and preparation. The student-developed recipes use easy techniques and readily available ingredients.
Illustrated Accounts of Moments in Agricultural History
Modern Farmer magazine offers a number of illustrated accounts by Lucas Adams that depict interesting and important moments in agricultural history. The Illustrated Account of 'The Great Die-Up' of the 1880s tells the story of the winter of 1886-7, which was so harsh that only about one out of ten cattle survived, and the era of the open range came to an end soon after. Other accounts address topics such as the Pleasant Valley Sheep War, mulberry and silk production in 1830s Connecticut, a maple syrup heist, and dairy farming in the 1940s. These graphic novel style articles are sure to engage students from upper elementary to high school and older.     
NMSU Field Trip! Video Series
Field Trip! is a series of video field trips you can take right in your classroom. Video field trips include: Beef, Cheese, Cotton, Honey, Milk, Onion, Peanuts, Pecans, Pistachios, Red Chile Spice, Salsa, Turf, and Wine!
NMSU Field Trip: Beef
Take a Field Trip! from the farm to the grill to find out how that sizzling steak got to the grocery store. Nutritious and delicious, beef is a staple on our tables.