Skip to main content

Virginia Agriculture in the Classroom

Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix

Lesson Plan

Truth or Hogwash?

Grade Level
3 - 5

Students work in teams to play a game in which they answer true/false questions about swine and then research and develop questions of their own. Grades 3-5

Estimated Time
1 hour
Materials Needed

Explore and Explain



boar: adult male pig

gilt: a young female pig that has not had piglets

hog: a large swine, weighing over 250 pounds

hogwash: garbage fed to hogs; or, worthless, false, or ridiculous speech or writing; nonsense

lard: the white solid or semi-solid rendered fat of a hog

lean: containing little or no fat

manure: animal waste used for fertilizing land

pig: a small swine, weighing less than 250 pounds

pork: meat that comes from pigs

snout: the projecting nose, jaws, or anterior facial part of an animal's head

sow: a female adult pig

swine: a pig

Background Agricultural Connections

Pigs were among the first animals to be domesticated, probably as early as 7000 BC. Forty million years ago, hoglike animals roamed forests and swamps in what are now europe and Asia. By 4900 BC hogs were domesticated in China. By 1500 BC they were being raised in Europe.

In 1539 Hernando de Soto landed at Tampa Bay, Florida, with 13 pigs, the first in North America. By the time of deSoto’s death, three years later, his hog herd had grown to 700.

Colonists in Pennsylvania developed the practice of “finishing” the hogs on corn (feeding them nothing but corn in the few weeks before butchering them). This practice improved the quality of the pork and laid the foundation for the modern pork industry. In the colonial US, hogs were driven to market in large droves over trails that later became routes used by the railroads.

Hog raising became an important commercial enterprise during the 1800s when the midwest farm regions were settled. The new Erie Canal system gave farmers a way to get their hogs to the cities back east. Farmers started calling their hogs “mortgage lifters” because the profits from their sales helped pay for the new homesteads.

The hogs would eat corn, grass, clover or even table scraps that would have otherwise become garbage. The word “hogwash,” meaning something that is worthless, came from this practice. In some areas, hogs would be turned out to find their own food. Hogs would roam freely, eating what they could find. This included acorns from the ground or roots, which they dug up with their snouts. On Manhattan Island, New York, the hogs rampaged through grain fields until farmers were forced to build a wall to keep them out. The street running along this wall became Wall Street.

Most people had pig pens near their homes and fed the hogs just enough to keep them returning home from their daily forage for food. everybody had a different hog call so that only their pigs responded to their call. These calls might be a high pitched "sooie," a low pitched "wark," or a simple "here pig here."

Lard was in high demand for baking, so pork producers grew pigs that were very fat. People could eat foods that were higher in fat then because most were involved in vigorous physical labor that caused their bodies to burn large amounts of fat and calories. Today most people are not as active as they were back then, and health conscious consumers want leaner meat. To meet this demand pork producers have changed the way they feed and raise their swine. Most cuts of pork today are as lean or leaner than similar cuts of beef and chicken. Pork has a high nutrient density (a high level of nutrients for the level of calories). It provides protein, iron, zinc and B Vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and Vitamin B12).

Many people picture a hog farm as a smelly, muddy place where pigs wallow in muddy pens. Years ago, pigs would lie in the mud to protect themselves from overheating and biting insects. Today most hogs are kept indoors in buildings where producers can control temperature, humidity and other environmental factors. These buildings are well-lit and clean, so the producer can better monitor and promote the health of the hogs. Some operations use indoor and outdoor facilities. Healthy, unstressed animals are more profitable, so producers try to keep their hogs comfortable and happy.

Byproducts made from swine include adhesives, plastics, shoes, paint, glue, crayons, chalk, and chewing gum. Pig heart valves are used to replace diseased or damaged human heart valves. Hog skin is used as a dressing in treating serious burns, and hog pancreas glands can provide insulin to treat diabetes.

  1. Ask students to brainstorm what they know about pigs. Use guiding questions to help them. Examples include:
    • Why do we raise pigs?
    • What do pigs eat?
    • What color(s) can pigs be? 
  2. List facts and adjectives on the board as students brainstorm.
Explore and Explain
  1. Using the information provided in the Background Agricultural Connections section, teach students basic information about pigs. Explain the meaning of the word “hogwash” (nonsense; speech that is worthless, like the table scraps formerly fed to hogs.)
  2. Place the Truth or Hogwash Cards in a hat or bowl.
  3. Students will take turns drawing a card from the bowl to read to the class.
  4. After each question is read, students will call out “truth” or “hogwash.”
    • As an alternative, let students take turns answering the questions.
  5. After students have given their answers, the student who drew the card will read the answer located on the back of the card. Discuss the answers after each one is read. 
  6. Next, divide your class into 5 groups.
  7. Assign each group a subject to research by giving them one sheet of paper from the attached, Group Research Cards. When printed front to back, you will have 5 subjects for student research (nutrition, products from pigs, caring for pigs, life cycle of pigs, and history of pigs.)
  8. Review instructions with students and give further direction as needed.
  9. Provide internet access for students to research their subject and sufficient time for them to prepare 5 truth or hogwash statements.
  10. While students are researching, place 5 folders labeled "10," "20," "30," "40," and "50" at the front of the classroom. 
  11. When students have completed their cards, instruct them to place the cards in the correct folder at the front of the classroom.
  12. When all of the cards have been placed, divide students into teams and continue playing "Truth or Hogwash" similar to the instructions in steps 1-5 with the addition of keeping score. Modify the game rules to meet the needs of your class. Students can continue answering questions and accumulating points until they respond incorrectly to a question. Or, allow teams to take turns so each team gets a chance to answer questions.
  13. To complete the lesson and summarize what they have learned, hand out the Truth or Hogwash student activity sheet. Students will write three truths about pigs and two statements that are not true (hogwash). Ask students to take the worksheets home and share them with their parents before identifying which ones are truth and which ones are hogwash!
  • Have students create their own hog calls, and have a hog calling contest. Invite a panel of judges to determine the best call, or let students vote.

  • Hand out copies of the Pigs: A Poem Activity Sheet. Students write their own adjectives in the blanks and highlight the ones already in the poem.

  • Take students on a 360° Virtual Tour of a Sow Farm where piglets are born and then to a Wean-to-Finish farm where they continue their growth and life cycle.


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

  • Pigs provide meat such as sausage, bacon, pork chops, and ham to our diet.
  • Lean cuts of pork can provide iron and protein to our diets.
  • Pigs can be raised by farmers inside buildings that are heated and air conditioned or in outdoor pens. Pigs primarily eat grains such as corn and soybeans.
Pat Thompson
Oklahoma Agriculture in the Classroom
We welcome your feedback! If you have a question about this lesson or would like to report a broken link, please send us an email. If you have used this lesson and are willing to share your experience, we will provide you with a coupon code for 10% off your next purchase at AgClassroomStore.