Relevancy and Engagement

A Day Without Agriculture (Grades 3-5)

Grade Level
3 - 5

Students explore the wide scope of agriculture, identify the variety of agricultural products and by-products they use in their daily lives, and discuss the difference between needs and wants. Grades 3-5

Estimated Time
60 minutes
Materials Needed

Activity 1: Agricultural Products

Activity 2: Agricultural By-products

Activity 3: Wants and Needs


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

aquaculture: the cultivation of aquatic organisms (such as fish or shellfish) especially for food

by-product: an incidental or secondary product made in the manufacture or synthesis of something else

forestry: the science of caring for or cultivating forests, and the management of growing timber

nursery: an area where plants are grown for transplanting or for sale

Background Agricultural Connections

When you think of agriculture, you probably think of people growing crops or raising cows, pigs, sheep, and chickens on a farm. But agriculture includes much more than that. The people who work in factories building tractors and other farm machinery play an important role in agriculture. People in universities who research new agricultural products and new ways to grow food and fiber are involved in agriculture too. The grocer must buy agricultural products to fill the grocery shelves. The restaurant owner must buy agricultural products to prepare and serve his or her customers. The clothes you wear and the furniture on which you sit were probably made from agricultural products.

You may already know that steak and potatoes are agricultural products, but what about fish? Fish farming, or aquaculture, is also agriculture.

One of the fastest growing areas of agriculture is growing and selling greenhouse and nursery plants. Forestry is another area of agriculture. Tree farmers plant, nurture, and harvest trees. Then they sell the trees to companies that make paper products. The people who work in factories where paper is made and the people who sell it in stores are as much a part of agriculture as the farmer who plants the trees.

Think of all the ways in which agriculture touches your life. When you wake up in the morning, you might be lying on cotton sheets. Your pillow could be filled with down feathers from a goose. The frame of your bed is probably made of wood. These are all agricultural products, and you aren’t even out of bed yet! When you do get out of bed, you may put your feet onto a rug made from the wool of a sheep or a linoleum floor made from soybean oil. The soap you use in the shower might contain cottonseed oil or lanolin, a kind of oil from sheep’s wool. The handle of your hairbrush might be made from the bones and horns of a beef animal, and the bristles might be the bristles, or hair, of a pig. The towel you dry off with and the jeans and T-shirt you put on are made from cotton. Once you get to school you might pick up a crayon made from pig fat.

Some items you use every day are made using agricultural by-products. A by-product is a secondary product made in the manufacture of something else. For example, beef cattle are raised primarily to produce meat, but almost no part of the animal goes to waste. The animal fat is used for by-products such as candles, detergents, crayons, and perfume; internal organs are used for instrument strings and tennis racquet strings; hooves and horns are used for pet food and shampoo and conditioner; skin is used for gelatin; bones are used for charcoal and glass; hair is used for paint brushes; and blood is used for medicine.

You’ve already used dozens of agricultural products, and you haven’t even started eating. Just imagine a day without agriculture. Do you think you could survive?


  1. Ask the students to help you make a list on the board of items they need every day to survive. Guide their answers to include things such as food, clothing, and shelter.
  2. Once the list has been created, ask the students where these items come from. Transition to Activity 1 as you explain and describe the meaning of the word agriculture.
Explore and Explain

Activity 1: Agricultural Products

  1. Discuss the meaning of the word agriculture. Agriculture is the science, art, or practice of cultivating the soil, producing crops, and raising livestock and in varying degrees the preparation and marketing of the resulting products.
  2. Share information found in the Background Agricultural Connections section of the lesson.
  3. Explain to the students that they will be playing a list-making game. 
  4. Hand out copies of the A Day Without Agriculture activity sheet. Explain that the students will have eight minutes to list all the agricultural products that touch their lives in a day. 
  5. After they've finished, go around the room asking students to read one item on their list aloud.
  6. List each item on the white board.
  7. Ask students who also have that item on their list to cross it off. 
  8. Ask the last five students who still have items on their lists that have not been mentioned to come up to the front of the room for a championship round. 
  9. The last student with an agricultural product left on their list is the winner.

Activity 2: Agricultural By-products

  1. Explain to the students that a by-product is a secondary product made in the manufacture of something else. Agricultural by-products are a part of many manufactured items we use daily.
  2. Provide each student with an Everyday Items List. Discuss any items that are unfamiliar. Instruct them to place a check mark next to the items their family uses.
  3. After the students are finished, place the Agricultural By-products Charts around the room. Have the students go to each chart to identify from which livestock animal or crop each item is a by-product. Write the animal or crop on the line next to the item. Explain to the students that these items are examples of just some of the by-products from these livestock animals and crops. There are many more and some of the items could have come from more than one of the animals or crops. For example, cosmetics can come from all of these animals and crops and leather products can come from all of these animals.

Activity 3: Wants and Needs

  1. Read the book Something Good by Robert Munsch aloud to the class.
  2. Ask the students the following questions:
    • What did Tyra's dad buy at the grocery store? (bread, milk, cheese, and spinach)
    • Do you think they needed bread, eggs, milk, cheese, and spinach? (Yes, people need healthy food.)
    • What did Tyra want to buy? (ice cream, chocolate bars, and ginger ale)
    • Do you think they needed ice cream, chocolate bars, and ginger ale? (No, Tyra wanted them, but they didn't need them.)
  3. Discuss the difference between needs and wants. Explain that needs are things that are necessary for people to live and stay safe. Air, food, water, shelter, clothing, and sometimes medicine are needs. Wants are things that people would like to have, but don't need to survive.
  4. Pass out the Need and Want Cards. Read through the list of agricultural products from Activity 1 and the agricultural by-products list from Activity 2. Ask the students to decide whether each item is a need or a want and hold up the appropriate card when an item is read. If students seem confused about any of the items, be sure to stop and discuss why the item is a need or a want.
  • Have the students divide the items on their lists into categories (animal products/plant products, things to eat/things to wear). Have them create their own categories.

  • Have the students bring agricultural products from home and pile them all in one area. Then, invite another class or the principal to view the display, and have the students explain the importance of agriculture.

  • Read and discuss the book The Day the Farmers Quit by Autumn Pequignot.


After conducting these activities, review and summarize the following key concepts:

  • Agriculture includes farms with animals or crops as well as jobs in factories, schools, and grocery stores.
  • Agriculture provides our basic necessities of life.
  • A by-product is a secondary product made in the manufacture of something else. Agricultural by-products are a part of many manufactured items we use daily.
  • There is a difference between items that we want and items that we need
Oklahoma Agriculture in the Classroom and Lynn Wallin
Oklahoma Agriculture in the Classroom and National Center for Agricultural Literacy
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