Food from Plants

Online Lesson Plan
Food, Food, And More Food From Plants!

Lesson Plan by Kathy Jacobitz, science education consultant, Pawnee City, Nebraska.



Suggested grade level – 5th-8th.

  • Students will examine the edible parts of a plant and explore their function. (Roots, stems, leaves, flowers, fruits and seeds.)
  • Students will define what makes a fruit classified as a fruit.


lrScience0201The term vegetable is not a biological term but fruits are often referred to as vegetables. An example would be green beans because a green bean has a seed inside it that makes it a fruit. Other examples would be zucchini and pumpkins. Grocery stores often put these fruits in areas with vegetables.

Bring in fruit for examination or ask students to bring in fruit for this lesson. You will want at least three of each kind of fruit brought for to the class. Make sure you bring in the green beans, pumpkin, and zucchini. Discuss what makes a fruit a fruit. You should make a chart in the front of the room with the following divisions: Fruits, Roots, Stems, Leaves, Flowers, and Seeds. Students should keep a space in the journal to record the chart. It is fine to add to the chart any time during the investigations.


Students should spend some time researching the Crops section of this Web site beginning at Raising What You Can

  1. We Love Fruit by Allen Fowler.
  2. Fannie’s Fruits by Leslie Kimmelman.
  3. Apples and Pumpkins by Anne Rockwell.
  4. Peanut Butter Party by Ramy Charlip.
  5. The Children’s Kitchen Garden by Georgeanne and Ethel Brennan.
  6. From Peanuts to Peanut Butter by Melrun Berger.
  7. Fruit by Pascale Bourging and Gallimard Jeunesse.
  8. What Am I? By N. N. Charles.
  9. Eating the Alphabet: Fruits and Vegetables from A to Z by Lois Ehlert.
  10. The Amazing Potato by Milton Meltzer.
  11. Sugaring Time by Kathyrn Lasky.
  12. Potato by Barrie Watts.
  13. Look What I Did With A Leaf by Morteza Sohl.
  14. What’s Your Favorite Flower? by Allan Fowler.
  15. The Reason For A Flower by Ruth Heller.
  16. Flowers, Fruit and Seeds by Jerome Wexler.
  17. Everybody Cooks Rice by Norah Dooley.
  18. How A Seed Grows by Helene J. Jordan.
  19. A Seed Is A Promise by Claire Merrill.
  20. The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss.
  21. The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle.
  22. From Seed To Plant by Gail Gibbons.
  23. The Popcorn Book by Tommie de Paola.
  24. All About Seeds by Melvin Berger.
  25. Tops and Bottoms by Janet Stevens.
  26. What’s So Terrible About Swallowing An Apple Seed? By Harriet Lerner and Susan Goldhor.
  27. How do Apples Grow? by Betsy Maestro.
  28. Apples: Thematic Unit by Mary Ellen Sterling.
  29. Where Food Comes From by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent.
  30. Sing A Song Of Popcorn by Beatrice Schench de Regniers.



Why Is A Fruit A Fruit?

Perform a KWL – What We Know / What We Want to Know / What we Learned – about fruit in the journal and then compile a class KWL.


How many seeds will the fruit have? Which fruit will have the most seeds? Which fruit will have the fewest seeds?




Three of each type of fruit tested.
Cutting device (Follow school rules about knives.)
If you are going to eat the fruit you will want paper plates and forks.
Paper Towels.
pH paper if you are going to see if all fruit are acidic.


Predict the number of seeds for each fruit before the investigations states.

  1. Predict the number of seeds for each fruit before the investigations states.
  2. Someone may bring in a seedless fruit such as seedless watermelon. Use it to ask several questions, like, “How does it reproduce? Is it a hybrid? Is it a fruit?
  3. Dry the seeds and use them later for the seed section.
  4. Graph the data collected. Discuss results.
  5. Perform a horizontal cut to look for a pattern in the fruit, especially apples.
  6. Tasting of the fruit is an interesting investigation. Be sure to follow your school rules about bringing food to school.

Observations/Data Collections:

Graph data and explain results.

Additional Investigations:

  1. Why are some fruit called vegetables?
  2. Visit a grocery store and check out the patterns for fruits and vegetables.
  3. How was fruit canned during the 1930s and today?
  4. Place all the fruit from the class list on a food pyramid.
  5. Fruit to research: Peaches, Apples, Apricots, Cherries, Avocados, Lemons, Olives, Pears, and Walnuts.
  6. How do people use fruit and fruit products?
  7. How was fruit stored in the 1930s?

Perform a post KWL in the journal and compile a class list. Discuss.



Perform a KWL on roots in the journal and compile a class KWL. List as many roots as they can on the chart.

Roots help anchor plants in place and take in water and nutrients from the soil. Some roots store sugar and starches. People eat these roots to obtain many of the essential nutrients needed to survive. NOT ALL ROOTS ARE EDIBLE. List all the roots you can think of on the chart.

Questions for Investigation.

  1. Will plants grow differently if placed closer together or further apart? Students should design an investigation that will answer the question. Examine the whole plant following this investigation. Suggested seeds: beans, corn, grass or radishes.
  2. Will roots sprout in water? Design an investigation to answer this question. Will a sweet potato and a white potato sprout in a container of water? Explain results.
  3. Investigate how to make dyes from roots and make some. Paint the journal with the dyes.
  4. Research and report on the role the potato has played in the history of mankind.
  5. Where are roots grown as an economic adventure?
  6. Research unusual roots grown around the world. Locate on a map.
  7. List edible roots we eat in a balanced diet.
  8. Write a story about a root being pulled, packaged, shipped, and placed in a grocery store.
  9. Research the following individuals and list their contribution to science: Liberty H. Bailey, Robert Brown, Luther Burbank, George Washington Carver, and Barbara McClintock.
  10. Imagine you are a plant living alone, in a small planter. There is enough air, food, water, light, and soil to make life very easy. Suddenly three more seeds sprout, right in your planter. Now there are four of you! How will your life change? What kinds of problems will you have? How could the problem be solved? Write a story about it in your journal.

Perform a post KWL in the journal and compile a class KWL.



Perform a KWL on stems in the journal and compile a class KWL. List as many stems as they can on the chart. Stems support leaves, flowers or fruit. Liverworts, Hornworts and mosses are the only green plants not having stems. Stems can be very short, as in lettuce plants, or very tall, as in the trunks of Redwood Trees. Stems can be hollow, as in Daffodils or somewhat solid, as in the tree trunks. Food produced in the leaves travels down the stems to the roots, while water and nutrients absorbed from the roots travel through the stems to other parts of the plant. Click here for an investigation located in the 1920s section of the living farm, a study of how things travel up the stem.

Many interesting products come from stems. Granulated sugar is processed from the above ground stems of sugar cane and from sugar beets. Maple syrup is obtained from the trunk of maple trees.

Investigative Questions and Assessments:

  1. Research where cinnamon comes from.
  2. Why are white potatoes referred to as stems?
  3. Will colored water travel up a stem?
  4. Organize a stem scavenger hunt: Ideas might include some of the following: (They must find the stem, photos, pictures and sketches work as well.) Stems taller than my teacher; Stems having spines; Stems that are brown; and Stems having fruit.
  5. Are sweet potatoes the same as yams?
  6. Perform an iodine test to see if stems have starch.
  7. Have the students select a stem for research. They need to find a picture or make a sketch of the whole plant. Label the parts they have studied. More labels may be added later.
  8. Research the following people and discuss their contributions to science: George Beadle and Charles Bessey.
  9. Draw and label the life cycle of a plant with an edible stem.
  10. Students should start making a list of what they eat and then place them on a chart in the journal; fruit, stems, roots, flowers, leaves and seeds. Combine this list with the class list for each group listed above or mark them in some way so the students know which ones on the list they ate.
  11. Pretend you are a stem for a plant. Write what it feels like to be thirsty plus support flowers and leaves for the plant.
  12. Compare and contrast: (a) monocots vs. diocot stems; (b) herbaceous vs. woody stems; and (c) xylem vs. phloem.
  13. Which stems are sold for cash crops? Now vs. the 1930s.
  14. Give students edible and non-edible stems and ask them to compare and contrast the stems. Daffodils and tulips work well for non-edible stems.

Perform a post KWL in the journal and compile a class KWL.



Perform a KWL on leaves in the journal and compile a class KWL.

Ask students to sketch as many different kinds of leaves as they can think of in their journal. Label the leaf by giving the name of the plant, like maple tree or cabbage.

Leaves use light to make food for plants. The process is called photosynthesis. Plants also need water and carbon dioxide to make their food called glucose. The key to how plants make their food is a green pigment called chlorophyll. Plants can convert energy from the sunlight to chemical energy which can be stored in the plant. Most of the chemical energy is stored as starch and is used to fuel growth and development of the growing plant. The light energy is used to convert carbon dioxide and water into energy rich food compound called glucose.

The plants grown in the dark (1920s experiment – click here) may have appeared to lack the green color, have very long stems, and may be too weak to stand upright. These plants have used all their energy and food supply trying to find light. If placed in the light they may begin to turn green if still alive.

Investigative Questions and Assessments:

  1. Have students bring in leaves plus provide them with some edible leaves. NO RHUBARB LEAVES BECAUSE THEY ARE TOXIC TO EAT.
  1. Make leaf rubbings in their journal by placing the leaf under a page and rubbing on top of the page with a crayon or colored pencil. Label the leaf rubbing and explain the role of the leaf for the plant.
  2. Students should next try to group leaves by how they look alike and different. The students should explain the groupings they make and the class should discuss the groups. Leaves could be grouped by texture, color, size, and smell to name a few.
  3. Research a leaf from the rubbing and report to the class about the plant where the leaf came from.
  4. Research artists who use rubbings in their art.
  5. Have students bring in their favorite edible leaf. Make a graph of the class results. Make a salad and enjoy. Once again follow all school rules about eating in the classroom.
  6. Bring in fresh and dried herbs. Discuss the difference in how they look. If you own a dehydrator then take some fresh herbs and dehydrate them in class. How were plants dehydrated in the 1930s?
  7. Research the economic impact of leaves on society.
  8. Discuss edible leaves as part of our diet. Remind students not all leaves are edible and some are toxic.
  9. Read, Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf by Lois Ehbert. Journal about what it would feel like to fall from the tree. Write about changing colors. Why? What would you encounter by being a leaf?
  10. Discuss symmetry of the plants and why this would be important.
  11. What leaves can we sell to make money? Where are they grown? Make a class list and place them on a map.
  12. How are plant leaves used in medicine?
  13. Research air ferns and explain how they get food.
  14. Record the leaves you and your class eat in a week. What was the average number of leaves per student? What does this mean?
  15. Research and explain photosynthesis. Why does it have a dark phase?
  16. Why do leaves change colors?

Perform a post KWL in the journal and compile a class KWL.



Perform a pre KWL on flowers in the journal and compile a class KWL.

Flowers are the reproductive parts of plants. Most flowers produce seeds. Some flowers have colorful petals and fragrances that attract pollinators such as bees and flies. Seeds develop in the ovary of the fertilized flower. Under proper environmental conditions seeds grow into new plants like their parent plant. The ripened ovary becomes a fruit. Flowers of some plants are edible. Students should be cautioned that some flowers are poisonous. They should never eat anything they are not sure of unless it is approved by an adult.

Investigative Questions and Assessments:

  1. Provide the students with a labeled flower diagram they can color, cut and paste in the journal. Bring in tulips, daffodils, or lilies. (You can use plastic flowers but make sure they are made correctly.) Students should take the flowers apart. Draw and label the parts of the flower. Examine the pollen from different flowers under the microscope. Make sketches of what they see. What part of the flower had the pollen?
  2. Research and explain the pollination process in plants.
  3. Bring in broccoli for the students to examine. Place some broccoli in water and ask the students if it’s a bouquet? Will the broccoli bloom?
  4. If you add some cauliflower to the bouquet will you still have an edible bouquet?
  5. If allowed at your school, select some edible flowers and have a tasting party.
  6. Record flowers the class eats in a week. Graph the results and discuss your findings.
  7. Place the edible flowers on the food pyramid.
  8. Write a poem or story about being a flower and the changes you would go through in your life.
  9. Discuss symmetry of flowers.

Perform a post KWL in the journal and compile a class KWL.



Perform a KWL on seeds in the journal and compile a class KWL.

The seed is the specialized part of a plant that produces a new plant. It contains an embryo (partly developed plant) that consists of an immature root and stem. A seed also has a supply of stored food and a protective covering.

It is estimated that seeds are produced by approximately 250,000 kinds of plants. Farmers require seeds being placed in the soil where they germinate below ground to produce a plant.

Investigative Questions and Assessments:

  1. Which way do the seeds grow if placed on their side?
  2. Pretend you are using an x-ray to examine seeds germinating in a container. The seeds were planted in different positions. (Corn seeds work will for this idea.) Make a drawing to represent your x-ray. Discuss your x-ray results.
  3. Is light needed for germination?
  4. Germinate 100 seed for the entire class. Set up the investigation using the scientific process. Record controls and variable. The variable could be to test with two kinds of seeds, 100 of each seed type. List step by step the procedure everyone is to follow. Observe every day and record the number of seeds germinating day. Make sketches and record observations in the journal. Calculate percentage of germination rate for each seed type on a daily basis. Graph the results. Why is the percentage of germination important to farmers and seed companies?
  5. Write a story about the life cycle of a seed. Include all the changes a seed must go through to become a plant.
  6. Ask everyone bring in as many different kinds of seeds as they can find. Mix the seeds together. Students can take a sample of the seeds: An empty film canister works well for the sampling. Fill the canister full of seeds, and start sorting the seeds into groups based only on one trait. Next, select another trait and continue to separate them by more and more traits. Students should record their classification system in their journal. The students then put the seeds into the canisters and trade the classification they wrote along with their seed sample to another group. Can they follow another group’s ideas about how to classify the seed sample? Discuss as a class the results and discuss why we have a classification system.
  7. How are seeds transported from one location to another? Share ideas with the class.
  8. How are potatoes, strawberries, iris and tulips spread? HINT: They do not spread by seeds.
  9. How did farmers get most of their seeds during 1930s?
  10. Research the economic importance of seeds.
  11. Use all the seeds brought in to make a mosaic utilizing the different shapes and colors of the seeds.

Perform a post KWL in the journal and compile a class KWL. Discuss the results.

Assessment and/or Investigations:

Edible Plant Parts
Fruits Roots










tomato carrot celery cabbage broccoli corn
pumpkin radish asparagus lettuce artichoke pumpkin
apple onion bok choy spinach cauliflower rice
banana beets kohlrabi parsley capers sunflower
olives sweet potato white potato celery zucchini bean
  1. Ask students, why pumpkin can be in the fruit and a seed groups? Add to the list in their journal so a completed class list is recorded in each journal.
  2. Using the plants listed on their journal chart of edible plants, make a plant using any of the part listed on their charts. This plant may look different but as long as a root is were it belongs, the stem, etc. are used correctly you may create, sketch and name your new plant. If you have the plants on the list students may use toothpicks to hold the plant parts together and you may photograph for the student journal a picture of them with their new plant.
  3. Read the book, Tops and Bottoms by Janet Stevens. This book reinforces plant structures.

Students should answer these questions in their journal:

1. Why did Hare want to plant the garden?
2. What crop did Hare’s family receive when they harvested the tops?
3. What crop did Hare’s family receive when they harvested the bottoms?
4. What crops did Hare’s family receive when they harvested the middles?


Learning Advice:

Keep the rules at your school about the use of food items in the classroom.

  1. Make sure no child has an allergy to any food you decide to use in your classroom.
  2. You could use photos of plant parts for this unit.



Plants grow in almost every part of the world. We see plants almost every day. The oxygen in the air

The seeds of such plants as corn, rice, and wheat are the chief sources of food in most parts of the world.

Nebraska is in a grassland biome. This means most plentiful plants are the grasses. Grass is one of the largest and most varied family in the plant kingdom. The grass grains consisting of corn, wheat, rice, and oats provide us with food for our survival.

Journal Response:

How did the family living on the farm during the 1930s decide what to plant in the garden and fields? Create a sketch or map or photo of a 1930s farm. Why did you select these plants?

General Notes:

Additional studies could be how the prairie has changed over time.


Assessment Activities:

  1. KWL Charts.
  2. Journal Assessment Rubric.
  3. Rubric for Scientific Research.
  4. Assessment Checklist for the Scientific Research.
  5. Venn Diagram.
  6. Rubric for the Research Paper.
  7. Rubric for Group Work.


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