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New York Agriculture in the Classroom

Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix

Lesson Plan

A Search for the Source (Grades 3-5)

Grade Level
3 - 5

Students determine that agriculture provides nearly all of the products we rely on in any given day by participating in a relay where they match an everyday item with its "source." Grades 3-5

Estimated Time
45 minutes
Materials Needed



  • Glue
  • Colored index cards or card stock in 2 different colors (for mounting product pictures)
  • Source Search Pictures, 1 copy*
  • Four boxes labeled "Stores," "Factories," "Farms," and "Natural Resources"*
  • Source Search Reference List, 1 copy for the teacher*

*These items are included in the Source Search Kit, which is available for purchase from


agriculture: the science or practice of farming, including cultivation of the soil for the growing of crops and the rearing of animals to provide food, wool, and other products

mineral: an inorganic substance needed by the human body for good health

natural resources: materials or substances such as minerals, forests, water, and fertile land that occur in nature and can be used for economic gain

source: a place, person, or thing from which something originates

Did You Know?
  • Fiber is the word farmers and ranchers use to describe the raw product for fabric. The two most commonly used farm-produced fibers are wool and cotton.
  • More than 24 million American workers (17 percent of the total US workforce), process and sell the nation's food and fiber.
  • About 18 percent of all US agricultural products are exported yearly.
Background Agricultural Connections

If you were to take a moment to look around and identify the items you rely on every day, they would likely include food, clothing, modes of transportation such as cars or bikes, building materials such as steel or wood, various technological devices such as cell phones or computers, and several tools and machines. Where did these items and raw materials used to make them originate? This lesson helps students answer that question.

Many people might recognize that farms provide us with whole, raw foods like fruits, vegetables, milk, meat, and eggs. They might even recognize that foods such as bread, pasta, cheese, frozen chicken nuggets, and canned foods also come from a farm, but are first prepared and packaged at a food processing facility. However, in reality, agriculture also provides us with a wide variety of raw materials used make clothes, books, cosmetics, medicine, sports equipment, and much more.

Everything we make and use in society can originally be found somewhere in our environment or it is produced on farms by using natural resources such as land and water. Resources such as metal and glass are made from minerals that are extracted from the earth through the process of mining. Most plastics are a byproduct of oil which is extracted from beneath the Earth's surface. Other items we rely on from day-to-day are products of agriculture. Farms exist in numerous sizes and various locations and include many different products ranging from food and clothing to fuel and building supplies. 

While many day-to-day items were built, processed or manufactured at a factory and eventually sold at a store, it is important for students to understand that they each began as a resource of the natural world and/or a product of agriculture.

  1. Ask the students, "What did you do to get ready for school this morning?"
  2. Project the Morning Activities Images onto a large screen.
  3. Point to the picture of the child eating breakfast. Ask the students what items the child used while eating breakfast. (cereal, milk, bowl, spoon, etc.) Ask the students what items were used to complete the other activities shown in the pictures.
  4. Explain to the students that they use many different items and eat different types of food each day. Inform the students that they will be participating in an activity to learn about many of the items they use every day.
Explore and Explain


  1. Print and cut out the attached Source Search Pictures showing everyday items.
    • Optional: If you prefer to get your students involved in the preparation stage (and have time), have students collect their own pictures of every day items. Gather a variety of magazines or slick ads from the Sunday newspaper and instruct your students to cut out pictures that represent items they use regularly (food, cars, soap, clothes, computer, etc.) Avoiding duplication, select 36.
  2. Randomly divide the 36 pictures into two groups. Use two colors of index cards (or card stock) and glue the pictures onto the cards. Laminate the pictures for future use.
  3. Obtain four containers (boxes, plastic tubs, paper box lids, or paper grocery bags) and label each with one of the following: "Stores," "Factories," "Farms," and "Natural Resources."
  4. Identify a suitable location for a relay race such as an area outside, a wide hallway, or the gymnasium.


  1. Divide the class into two teams. Divide the laminated pictures by color. You should have 18 pictures in each pile. If you are using red and blue index cards, you will have a red and blue team.
  2. Take the students to the location of the relay race and place each team in a single file line. Be sure to have all the pictures face down in front of the first person in each line. Locate the tubs 20-50 feet away from the lines.
  3. Give students the following instructions: "This is the source relay. Your job is to place each card in the tub representing the original source of the every day item that is pictured. When you are in the front of the line, pick up a card, look at the picture, then run to and place the picture in the correct tub based on the product’s “source”– either “Stores,” “Factories,” “Natural Resources,” or “Farms.” Keep in mind that you are looking at the product, not the packaging. The next person in line goes when the person in front of them returns and crosses over the start line or hand-tags them. The returning player should go to the end of the line."
  4. Ask students if they have any questions and clarify as needed. Begin the relay race and continue until all of the pictures have been sorted. The first team to finish the sort wins temporarily, but the ultimate winner will be determined by accuracy.
  5. After the relay is over and the pictures are sorted, return to the classroom or have the students gather around you in a suitable location to go through the cards and discuss the correct answers. As you hold up each picture, the students can show whether they agree or disagree with the sort using the "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" signal, or another response as chosen. Use the attached Source Search Items Reference List for the correct answers and explanations for each card. You can also refer to the Source Search e-Learning lesson video for a recorded explanation. If you choose to keep score to identify a winner, tally the number of cards in the correct boxes for each team.
    • Farms: Explain that if the item contains ingredients or raw products from a farm, the item is in the correct box. Examples would be any food items such as cereal, cookies, and milk, or any clothing item made from a natural fiber such as cotton (jeans) or wool (coat). Some items from a farm that are not eaten or worn include paint (this contains linseed or soybean oil) or fuel such as ethanol. 
      • Note: After most relays, the “Farms” container will typically have only a few items in it.
    • Natural Resources: Explain that items in this tub should be products we get from the ocean, from plants or animals that occur naturally without management from humans, or from mining. Examples of items that should be in this box are cars, salt, water, plastic (plastic starts as oil, which is mined) synthetic fabrics (polyester, petroleum or oil products), computers, cell phones, and any metallic items. Fish or shrimp can be caught in the wild, but can also be farmed. Wood products may be in this box, but many wood products come from timber grown on farms. Let the class decide how to divide these. Remind your students that this is the “source” search. What is the “real” source of the things we use every day? Nearly all are grown or mined – farmed or extracted from the natural world.
      • Note: This tub is also likely to only have a few items inside.
    • Factories: Explain that a factory is a place where raw ingredients are changed into the useful items we need or want; wood into furniture, ore into steel for cars, wheat into bread, and potatoes into chips. A factory assembles items to later be sold in a distribution center or store. With this information, ask students, "Can factories be the original source of any items?" (No) Proceed by sorting every card in the “Factories” box into either the “Farms” or “Natural Resources” container. After doing this, your students should understand that all products were originally grown or mined.
    • Stores: Move to the box labeled "Stores." After receiving the explanation about factories, check for understanding by asking, "Are stores the original source of any items?" Students should realize that, like the “Factories” container, nothing should be in the “Stores” container. Stores are where we purchase items and are not their original source. Clarify that factories and stores rely on raw ingredients from the farm and natural world. Every picture or product should now be in either the “Farms” or “Natural Resources” container.
  6. Explain to the students that farms need water, soil, the sun, and air to grow and raise plants and animals. To illustrate, place the "Farms" box inside the "Natural Resources" box.
  • Ask your students to create a concept web with one of the pictures used in the “Source Search” activity. Each picture should be place in the center of a piece of large paper and the web drawn to identify associations or links to careers, natural resources or other products.

  • Play the My American Farm interactive games Where in the World? and Ag Across America.

  • Read Issue 1 of Ag Today titled Agriculture is Everywhere! This reader can be printed or accessed digitally. It describes the connections humans make daily with agriculture from business and science to the practices of growing and selling row crops and animals to be used for food, fiber, and fuel.

  • Discuss the importance of conserving and managing natural resources.


After conducting this activity, consider repeating the relay a second time using only two containers, "Farms" and "Natural Resources" to assess student understanding.

Review and summarize the following key concepts:

  • The items we use every day either began as a resource of the natural world or were produced on a farm.
  • The raw materials produced on farms are used for food, clothing, and many other items we use every day.
  • Factories and stores are not the original sources of any items. Factories build, process, and/or manufacture items and stores are distribution centers.

Activity adapted from Project Season, by Deborah Parrella.

Debra Spielmaker
Utah Agriculture in the Classroom
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