National Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix
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The Right Diet for Your Plants
6 - 8
Four or five, 50-minute sessions
In this lesson, students will learn how to read a fertilizer label, understand the components of fertilizers, and explore factors for choosing the appropriate fertilizer for a given situation. Students will use their knowledge and conduct research on one type of soil supplement to design a persuasive product advertisement.
- Packaged fertilizer labels (optional)
- Copies of What's Growin' On? Elements for Life
- How to Read a Fertilizer Label handout (1 per student)
For the class:
- 1 or 2 copies of the Advertisement Options List
- Reading #1: Why Must We Replace Nutrients Back into the Soil?
- Reading #4: Fertilizers
For each student:
- Magazines containing numerous ads
- Blank, white paper and construction paper
- Markers or colored pencils
- One Advertisement Option
- Soil Supplement Advertisement handout
Essential Files (maps, charts, pictures, or documents)
- What's Growing On? Elements for Life
- Reading: Why Must We Replace Nutrients Back into the Soil?
- Reading: Fertilizers
- Soil Supplement Advertisement
- Advertisement Options
- How to Read a Fertilizer Label
manure: solid animal waste products used for fertilizer. May contain some straw or other animal bedding material
fertilizer: any substance added to the soil or water that increases the nutrients available to plants
amendment: any material added to soil to make it more productive such as fertilizer, mulch, etc
compost: a mixture made of decaying organic material used to fertilize plants
deficiency: a substance that is lacking
green manure: vegetation that is plowed into the field to improve soil composition; normally a legume such as beans or alfalfa
Background Agricultural Connections
Interest Approach – Engagement
- Ask students to list some of the basic nutrients our bodies need to be healthy. Students should list examples such as protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals.
- Next, ask students if there are specific periods of a person's life that they require either additional or fewer nutrients. If needed, provide examples such as an athlete, a growing teenager, or a baby.
- Summarize your discussion by helping students understand that all humans have similar nutrient requirements, but they do change slightly according to age, physical exercise, etc.
- Point out that plants also require specific nutrients, just like people. Ask if a plant's nutrient requirement changes through its lifecycle or in different locations. Yes. In this lesson students will be learning about fertilizer and how specific fertilizers can be formulated to meet the needs of various plants.
Activity 1: How to Read a Fertilizer Label
- Complete the How to Read a Fertilizer Label handout with your students. This may be done as a class, group, or individual activity.
Activity 2: It All Ads Up
- Have students look through a magazine and analyze the ads. Have students pick a favorite and a least favorite ad. Share some of the ads with the class and discuss what makes an advertisement effective.
- Make one or two copies of the Soil Supplement List. Cut list into strips, and place in hat or container. There are 20 different soil supplements on the list. Have each student pull a soil supplement description out of the hat.
- Explain to students that their assignment is to design a magazine ad for the soil supplement item they pull out of the hat.
- Review the Soil Supplement Advertisement handout directions with the class. Provide the readings Why Must We Replace Nutrients Back into the Soil? and Fertilizers. Discuss the main points of these readings with students. Explain to students that many consumers may not know that fertilizers provide plants with essential nutrients for growth. Explain that nutrients must be replaced back into the soil after they have been removed along with harvested crops. As advertisers, students will want consumers to know why their product is important.
- Explain that student ads should look authentic and professional and should not simply copy an advertisement from an existing product.
- During class, have each student research his/her product and review references. Also, have students decide what type of magazines or newspapers they will design for: a family magazine, a gardening magazine, a farming magazine, etc. This will help them determine how their ad should look. Discuss how the audience will affect what they design.
- Have students begin work in class. The creation of this ad will probably be assigned as homework and will be brought back completed in 3 or 4 days. Some students may need time to look at possible ideas in stores so they should be given several days to complete the assignment.
- When completed projects are brought into class to be shared, have four or five students come to the front together. Each student will show his/her poster. Have classmates identify, or try to identify, what the student was advertising. Have the student explain in a few sentences what was being advertised and what they learned about the topic. They should include why someone would want to buy that product.
Concept Elaboration and Evaluation
After conducting these activities, review and summarize the following key concepts:
- Fertilizer is a supplement that is added to soil to promote healthy plant growth.
- N, P, and K refer to the nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium found in fertilizer.
- Commercial fertilizers are carefully formulated and created to meet the specific needs of plants.
- Have students share their final product in a small group instead of in front of the class.
- Give students the option to use other types of technology to create their ads. Examples include radio broadcast, iMovie, and more.
- Have students use reference books instead of online sources of information. Possible reference books:
- The New Western Garden Book by Sunset Magazine
- California Master Gardener Handbook by Pittinger
- Western Fertilizer Handbook by Western Plant Health Association
We welcome your feedback! Please take a minute to tell us how to make this lesson better or to give us a few gold stars!
Have students include a written report, explaining what they learned about soil supplements while researching their topic.
Suggested Companion Resources
- Troubled Waters (Activity)
- Topsoil Tour (Kit)
- Home Composting - Turning Your Spoils to Soil (Multimedia)
- Phosphate Mining Video (Multimedia)
- Potash Mining Video (Multimedia)
- Soil Science Videos (Multimedia)
- Under Your Feet: Exploring Soil Science (Booklets & Readers)
- Dig In: Hands-On Soil Investigations (Teacher Reference)
- From the Ground Up: The Science of Soil (Website)
- How a New Evolutionary Map Could Help Farmers Eliminate Fertilizer (Website)
- Soil Health Education Resources (Website)
- Soil Science Society of America (Website)
Agricultural Literacy Outcomes
Agriculture and the Environment
- Describe benefits and challenges of using conservation practices for natural resources (e.g., soil, water, and forests), in agricultural systems which impact water, air, and soil quality (T1.6-8.b)
- Discover how natural resources are used and conserved in agriculture (e.g., soil conservation, water conservation, water quality, and air quality) (T1.6-8.c)
Education Content Standards
Plant Science Systems Career Pathway
PS.01.02Prepare and manage growing media for use in plant systems.
PS.01.03Develop and implement a fertilization plan for specific plants or crops.
MS-LS2 Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
MS-LS2-1Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for the effects of resource availability on organisms and populations of organisms in an ecosystem.
MS-LS2-3Develop a model to describe the cycling of matter and flow of energy among living and non-living parts of an ecosystem.
Common Core Connections
Reading: Anchor Standards
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.4Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.
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.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.2Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
Writing: Anchor Standards
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.6Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.7Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.
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.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.9Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
Mathematics: Practice Standards
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.