Teachable Moments Visiting a Farm

A field trip to a local farm is a fun and exciting adventure for children of all ages. It is also a fantastic opportunity to teach your students or children about plants, animals, farm life, and a wide variety of other subjects. Have them  grab a pencil and some paper. Then let the learning begin.

*Photosynthesis

When some people think of a farm, the first thing that comes to their minds is the cute baby animals.  However, plants are an important part of a farm. While visiting the farm, you should be sure to point out the importance of plants.  This is a great time to discuss photosynthesis, the process by which plants use sunlight and carbon dioxide to make food. Be sure to explain that plants give off oxygen as a byproduct of photosynthesis, and that humans need oxygen in order to survive.

*Plant parts

This is also a great time to explain plant structures.  For young children, you can simply explain to them the four main parts of plants: root, stem, leaves, and flowers.  For older children, you can go into more details about the plant parts and how they function. 

*Plant life cycle

Plants go through a life cycle similar to that of animals.  Before heading off to the farm, it would be nice to have printed copies of a plant during the different life cycle that the kids can use as a point of reference. It would also help to have viewed a film on the different stages of a plants life cycle.  Once at the farm, have them look at different plants and identify which stage of the life cycle they are in. 

*Difference between high fructose corn sugar and regular sugar (older children)

If you and your children or students happen to be visiting a farm where there is corn, you can discuss the difference between high fructose corn sugar and regular sugar. Explain to them that high fructose corn sugar ( HFCS) comes from corn like its name implies, and although it is similar to regular sugar; high fructose corn sugar is different.

Be sure to explain how the two types of sugar differ.  Unlike regular sugar, high fructose corn sugar is chemically manufactured. Companies add enzymes to the cornstarch to make it change its natural sugar content into a fructose-based sweetener. High fructose corn sugar is much sweeter than regular corn sugar, and it is easier to dissolve.  It is cheaper to make and use than regular sugar. Wondering why all the controversy over HFCS? Increased consumption of HFCS can lead to obesity.

*Compare and contrast plant and animal cells

Both plants and animals are found on a farm.  During your visit to the farm, it is a good time to point out that plant and animals are made up of different cells.  If you have been planning this field trip for a while, it would help to have illustrated copies of the two different types of cells handy.  If you don’t, that’s fine.  Explain the difference the best you can while at the farm, and when you return home or to the classroom, you can then illustrate the difference between the two.

*Milk and butter

Young children are always fascinated to learn where milk comes from and how it is pasteurized. If possible, observe the milking process and explain what is going on to your children.  This is also a great time to explain how butter is made from milk.  You can have your kids do a simple butter making activity that they will enjoy.

*Weather and farm life

The weather plays an important part in the life of a farmer.  When there is a drought, early frost, or other natural disaster.  Crops are affected.  Explain to your children how these weather conditions can destroy crops and influence prices at the grocery store. 

You can have the farmer or other staff on the farm show you and your children how they irrigate (water) the crops.  This could also lead into a discussion on The Dust Bowl and how it helped contribute to The Great Depression.  Once back in the classroom, the students can read some books like “Out of the Dust” or the “Little House on the Prairie” series to further their connection to the struggles of life on a farm. 

*Animal life cycles

Animals go through a life cycle similar to the one that plants go through.  You can use chickens to demonstrate an animal’s life cycle.  You can begin at the hen house by show your children some chicken eggs.  You should then explain that within those eggs are baby chicks waiting to be born.  From that point, try to locate chickens in different stages of development and explain these to your students.  Once you are back in the classroom, you can let the students view a short on animal life cycles.

Every day life events can be used as learning experiences.  A trip to a farm can present an educator or parent a wonderful opportunity to explain how humans and plants are dependent upon one another for survival.  A field trip to a local farm will also allow children to see where the food that they consume comes from.