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Featured GraphicFrom Maize to Milk: A Barnyard Full of Activities!

Put on your straw hat and grab a pitchfork -- it's time to go down on the farm! These activities -- centered around pigs, corn, milk, and more -- are guaranteed to make your students "hoot and holler"! Activities for all ages!

First and second grade students of the Blue Pod at Oak View Elementary School in Fairfax, Virginia, took responsibility for some very special guests in their classroom. They were the "foster parents" to some baby chicks! The chicks hatched as their "parents" watched. Soon a farmer would take the little ones -- the chicks, that is! -- and Mrs. Bui's students would write stories about their experiences as temporary "chicken farmers."

Anyone can read the students' stories by paying a visit to How Chicks Grow, Oak View Elementary School. Shannon, one of Bui's students, says, "I was so surprised when I saw the little chicks pop open. I think they had a nice time here. We made a brooder for the chicks. We got to hold the chicks. I liked the chicks. But, they need to be with their moms. Before they were born, they are called Embryos. You have a nice time with chicks. They're very cute and fluffy." If you're not quite ready to adopt a chick, try one of these other farm-related activities...


Language arts -- book reviews. What could be more fitting as a language arts component to your harvest or farming unit than the adorable story of Charlotte's Web by E. B. White? All of the typical farm animals are present in this tale, but they are not just moving about the barnyard -- they're talking! Read the story as a group chapter book or as you decide. Then consider creating a Web page to post your students' reviews and summaries of the book like these two examples: Charlotte's Web and Charlotte's Web. Or send your students' reviews to sites that accept student submissions like  Book Reviews for Kids by Kids.

Science -- pig care. If you don't happen to have a pig farm next door, then this site is definitely for you! Farmtastic Voyage takes you on a tour of a pork producing farm in Iowa with two young farmers, Bethany and Michael. Your students will learn about what pigs eat, how to care for them, and how their owners keep them comfortable. There are many pictures to illustrate the ideas presented. You could have your students keep track of all of the facts they learn during their tour in a "pig handbook." At the end of your voyage, ask a few questions and allow the students to refer to their "handbooks" to answer them!


Science -- uses of corn. Known as "maize" to Native Americans, corn continues to be a popular vegetable among children, and this Web site will help you to share its story with your class. Korn for Kids has informational pages that address the history of corn and its many uses and nutritional benefits. Did you know that corn is the primary ingredient in many dry pet foods? To prove just how many different foods contain corn, have your students print and complete the "Corn Word Scramble." To practice their label-reading skills, on an assigned day have them bring in a grocery item from home that has corn in it. They will be "a-maized" by the surprising versatility of plain old corn!

Science -- scientific experimentation. Bring a crop of corn into your classroom with a ton of activities from Kids CORNer. This "bountiful" set of twelve experiments to try with corn comes from the Corn World Web site. Use the experiments to show your students why kernels of corn pop when they are heated, where corn is grown, and how plants contribute to the making of plastic. You will even find a set of review questions with each activity to see just how well your budding scientists have been paying attention! This is the perfect site to complement a study of the scientific method. As you perform the experiments, point out the steps to follow: hypothesis, procedure, data collection, and conclusion. You could even have your students make "lab reports" that identify these steps.


Language arts -- organizing information using Venn-diagrams. Kidz Korner is a great resource from the Michigan Department of Agriculture. Here your students may see what is offered at a county fair, read the stories of kid-farmers, or look at pictures of gardens, dairy farms, or farming families. They might read about dairy farming in Michigan or play a farm animal memory game. If you teach young children, be sure to share the story of Tigger in the "My Pet" category. He is a country cat who moved to the city and a new life. You could relate this online story to the book Cookie's Week by Cindy Ward or the classic tale "The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse." (Jan Brett has a neat version of this now,  Town Mouse and Country Mouse.) Use a Venn-diagram to illustrate characteristics of the city and the country that your students can name. Compare and contrast the two.

Music/language arts -- farm songs. You'll find the words to many other kids' songs at KIDiddles. If you practice everyday, your students will have these country tunes down in no time!

Social studies -- debate skills. Here's a great farm site for older students!  Barnyard Palace contains an aerial photo of the Teaching Animal Unit at the NCSU Veterinary Medicine College that serves as a clickable map. Read about the beef cows, poultry, and horses on this teaching farm by selecting a portion of this photograph. There are plenty of facts to share and lots of pictures. Because many of the animals are raised primarily for consumption, this is probably not the best site for early elementary students. You could use this fact as a springboard to a discussion of the ethics of raising animals for food, or even for scientific research, with more mature kids.

Social studies -- Montana agriculture. Visit MT Kids: Agriculture with your class to learn about the many crops and animals raised in Montana. Use Teaching Master 1 to reinforce the concepts presented with a good old-fashioned game of "Jeopardy." Students in upper elementary grades can write their own questions.


Language arts -- comparison. Few stories tell of the difficulties of agricultural life as well as those of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Students who are familiar only with the television version of those tales will be enthralled by the books. Add to that collection the site called Laura Ingalls Wilder, Frontier Girl. This site offers pages of background on all of the characters of the stories, the places in which Laura lived, and what life was like for the Ingalls as a farming family in the 1800s. Read a portion of one of the many "Little House" books to your class and then visit this site to learn more about its author. Have your students compare the real-life story of Laura Ingalls, the books' versions of her experiences, and the television portrayal.


Science -- the making of milk. If you asked your students, they could probably tell you that milk comes from cows, but not much more about it. For instance, what do the terms "homogenized" and "pasteurized" that we see on milk cartons mean? Have the students in your class study up on their understanding of milk with a virtual tour of a dairy farm at MooMilk. When they have finished, they might take the "MooMilk Quiz." How many different products can they name that contain milk? Ask your students to make a chart that shows the process of making milk -- from the cow to the refrigerator.

Social studies -- making butter. Making butter is as easy as one, two, three! Start by pouring cream into a jar, about half full. Then place the lid on tightly. Make use all of the busy hands in your classroom! Pass around the jar, periodically moving from one student to the next, each having a chance to shake the jar vigorously. When you no longer hear the liquid moving inside, check your butter. This is a little rudimentary, so you'll want to spread the butter on a good, flavorful cracker!

Health -- nutrition with milk. We all know that milk is good for us, but how good is it? Well, it's great! Milk gives us calcium for strong bones and healthy teeth. But don't let me tell you, see for yourself at Got Milk? This Web site speaks to kids, in their own language, about the goodness of "moo." When they've finished reading the praises of milk, send your students to Teaching Master 2, and instruct them to make their own plan for infusing a little milk into their diet!


  • Carts, Candles, and Cabbages If you like to share the book The Ox-Cart Man by Donald Hall with your classes, this Web site is a the resource for you. You will find great questions, activity suggestions, and even a chart to use with your students.
  • Aggie Horticulture Just for Kids A great site for teachers! Visit the "KinderGARDEN" section to learn about ways children might experiment with plants and investigate the outdoors. "Nutrition in the Garden" has gardening ideas and information about fruits and vegetables. "Composting for Kids" is a set of instructional electronic slides that you might use to introduce the concepts of composting and recycling.
  • The Meaning of Kwanzaa Kwanzaa is a celebration of the harvest that occurs in December. Like to learn more? This is the place! Discover the roots of this holiday and how it has changed.
  • An American Thanksgiving In November, we hold a traditional feast of the harvest -- Thanksgiving. What was the first Thanksgiving like? Why was it held? What is served today? This Web site is "Thanksgiving central"!

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Article by Cara Bafile
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