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Virginia Agriculture in the Classroom


Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix

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Lesson Plans (21)
Animal Life Cycles

Students investigate six major livestock species, discover that animals need air, space, food, water, and shelter to survive, and explore the life cycle of a farm animal.

At Home on the Range (Grades 3-5)

Students investigate rangelands by growing their own grass to represent a beef or sheep ranch.

At Home on the Range (Grades 6-8)

Students investigate rangelands by growing their own grass to represent a beef or sheep ranch.

Beef Basics

Students explain the importance of the beef cattle industry, including the products cattle produce, the production process from farm to plate, and how cattle can utilize and obtain energy from grass and other forage.

Beef: Making the Grade

Students will evaluate the USDA grading system for whole cuts of beef and discuss consumer preferences and nutritional differences between grain-finished and grass-finished beef. Students will also distinguish various labels on beef products and discuss reasons for the government’s involvement in agricultural production, processing and distribution of food.

Build it Better

Students investigate animal handling preferences, design a cattle corral system that is durable, efficient, and effective, and discover the skills needed to be an agricultural engineer.

Build-a-Calf Workshop

Students explore concepts of heredity in beef cattle and identify dominant and recessive traits.

Carbon Hoofprints: Cows and Climate Change

Students will explore the carbon cycle and evaluate the carbon footprint of cattle. Using critical thinking skills, students will use the Claim, Evidence, and Reasoning model to determine the effect of cows’ methane production on the environment and investigate the extent cattle contribute to climate change.

Caring for the Land

Students explain why people have different opinions regarding soil management and identify cause and effect relationships relating to agriculture and the environment.

Cowabunga! All About Dairy Breeds

Students explore breed characteristics and countries of origin for five different breeds of dairy cattle and discover why dairy farmers choose individual breeds for specific purposes.

Double the Muscle: Probabilities and Pedigrees

This lesson allows students to apply the concept of Mendelian genetics and learn about the double muscling trait found in cattle. Students will apply their knowledge of genetics and Punnett squares to calculate the probability of genotypes and use a pedigree chart.

Federal Lands: Ranching & Recreating on Common Grounds

Using various forms of maps, students will analyze public lands in the western United States, describe how ranchers raise food and fiber on federally owned land, and discuss different points of view concerning public lands use and public lands grazing. This lesson covers a socioscientific issue and aims to provide students with tools to evaluate science within the context of social and economic points of view. 

Making a Brand for Ourselves the "Cowboy" Way

Students explore cowboy culture and history and research 19th-century Texas cattle trails by writing cowboy poetry, mapping historic cattle trails, and creating cattle brands.

Milk or Meat? Beef or Dairy?

Students identify the differences between beef and dairy cattle and determine the commodities produced by each type of cattle.

Roll of the Genes

Students explore how genes affect important traits such as growth, reproduction, disease resistance, and behavior and discover the responsibilities of an animal geneticist.

Sun, to Moo, to You!

Students investigate the transfer of energy in the process of making milk, discover that there are different forms of energy, determine that living things need energy to survive, and identify the sun as the primary source of energy.

The Cattle Drive and Westward Expansion

Students will gain a greater understanding of the historical context and purpose of the cattle drives that took place in the mid 1880s. Students will be able to explain the cause and effect relationships of life on the frontier including, population growth, and later the invention and use of barbed wire, refrigeration, and railroads.

The Remarkable Ruminant

In this lesson, students will follow the farm to fork process of producing beef, learn how cattle and other ruminants convert grass into nutrient-rich foods such as milk and meat, discover ways cattle recycle food waste, and identify careers in the beef cattle industry.

The Ultimate Efficient Recycler

Students examine how cows help conserve natural resources by identifying the important role dairy cattle have in reducing, reusing, and recycling food processing by-products. Students identify each stage of the ecological cycle and the important role of decomposers.

Think in Pictures: Like Dr. Grandin (Grades 3-5)

Students compare agricultural inventors and inventions by creating a timeline of important dates, explore cattle flight zones, and work as agricultural engineers to design a corral system that uses the research of Dr. Temple Grandin.

Think in Pictures: Like Dr. Grandin (Grades 6-8)

Students will explore cattle flight zones and work as agricultural engineers to design a corral system that uses the research of Dr. Temple Grandin.

Companion Resources (38)
'Til the Cows Come Home
Using a traditional Jewish folktale ('The Button Story') and setting it in the American West, the author uses cowboy language to create an engaging tale. A young cowboy, talented in making saddles and bridles, receives a sturdy piece of leather from a grateful cowpuncher. Although many of the items made from this leather eventually wear out, he is able to resurrect pieces to create various needed items throughout life.
Amazing Grazing
Visit 3 Montana ranches and learn how ranchers manage grasslands and balance livestock grazing to maintain a healthy and balanced rangeland. This elementary-level book contains many photographs and explains why cattle grazing is beneficial for land and water, and improves habitat for birds, plants and other animals.
Beef Cattle in the Story of Agriculture
This book teaches about the production of beef from the beginning to the end. You will learn common terminology, breeds of beef cattle, about the life cycle of beef cattle, what they eat, how they grow, and much more.
Cattle Kids: A Year On the Western Trail
This book is a fun photo essay teaching young readers about the life of kids on a cattle ranch. They will meet girls and boys who help on their family's cattle ranches and take part in many aspects of the ranch. Students will enjoy looking at the important jobs performed by other children their age and making comparisons to their own chores. The book provides an accurate look at western cattle ranching.
Chuck's Ice Cream Wish (Tales of the Dairy Godmother)
With the help of his Dairy Godmother, Chuck is taken—poof!—on a memorable and delicious adventure to a dairy farm. He finds out exactly where ice cream comes from and gains an even deeper love and appreciation for his favorite food.
Farm Animals
Farm Animals is a 32-page book filled with facts to learn about many types of farms and the animals that live there. The book includes real-life pictures and color illustrations. In addition to the text, each page includes a fun fact. Readers will learn why traditional farm animals such as beef cattle, dairy cattle, goats, sheep, chickens, and pigs are kept on farms. They will also learn why specialty farms raise ducks, geese, fish, and ostriches.
Has a Cow Saved Your Life?
Millions of people are now safe from Smallpox, a deadly disease. With excellent historical color pictures this book tells the story of how the smallpox vaccine was discovered.
Here, in their second stunning collaboration, Diane Siebert and Wendell Minor create a joyful, singing celebration of this country's Heartland, the Midwest. It is a land where wheat fields grow and cornfields stretch across the plains to create a patchwork quilt in hues of yellow, green, and brown; a land where herds of cattle graze in pastures draped in lush, green grass, and a newborn calf stands in the sun. And upon this land toils the farmer, strong and proud, whose weathered face tells a tale of a life of work that's never done. The Heartland's a land where, despite man's power, nature reigns.
Lazy B: Growing Up on a Cattle Ranch in the American Southwest
Deep in the granite hills of eastern Arizona in 1880, H.C. Day founded the Lazy B Ranch, where US Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and her brother Alan spent their youth, a time they recall in this affectionate joint memoir. "We belonged to the Lazy B, and it belonged to each of us," write O'Connor and Day. This fascinating glimpse of life in the Southwest in the last century recounts an important time in American history, and provides an enduring portrait of an independent young woman on the brink of becoming one of the most prominent figures in America.
Levi's Lost Calf
Young Levi rides out one morning to bring the cattle home from the pasture. After a head count, Levi is surprised that one calf is missing. Little Red, his favorite heifer calf, is nowhere to be found. Determined to prove his independence—and locate Little Red, Levi rides out with his horse, Pepper, and Gus, his trusty dog, in tow. The three sleuths search high and low around the ranch in search for the calf. Little Red stays hidden as readers are introduced to a bevy of barnyard animals throughout the search. A kid-friendly recipe is added to compliment the adventure and bring the cowboy spirit home to the reader.
Little Joe
The novel Little Joe offers a realistic look at the bond between 9-year-old Eli Stegner and his Angus calf, Little Joe, as they prepare for the county fair -- and the beef auction that follows. Readers will be fascinated by the details of raising beef cattle and receive an in-depth account of life on the farm. 
My Family's Farm Book Series
Learn through the eyes of young farmers how animals are cared for, crops are raised, and renewable resources are used as they take you for a tour of their family's farm. This digital book series includes titles for beef, corn, soybeans, wind (energy), pigs, and apples.
The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin
When young Temple was diagnosed with autism, no one expected her to talk, let alone become one of the most powerful voices in modern science. Yet, the determined visual thinker did just that. Her unique mind allowed her to connect with animals in a special way, helping her invent groundbreaking improvements for farms around the globe!
Thunder Rose
One hopelessly stormy night, an especially hopeful child was born. She became known as Thunder Rose. Right from the start, Rose decided she would do more than just grow up to be good and strong, thank you very kindly! And, indeed she does. Rose grows up to soothe the rankest of beasts and subdue the wiliest of outlaws. With her trusty steer, Tater, at her side, there seems to be no mountain too high and no desert too dry for Rose. But when a whirling storm on a riotous rampage threatens, has Rose finally met her match? Don't be too sure. Wrought from the thunderous voice of Jerdine Nolen, and forged under the smoldering touch of Kadir Nelson, Thunder Rose is a heroine with more mettle than we've ever seen before.
If you are a teacher who creates educational books with your children, try creating the About Cattle, About Sheep, About Chickens, About Pigs, and About Goats books. Some of the books provide pages ready to color, others require the names of the animals be written, and other pages ask students to glue down feed samples or wool products. The books provide an opportunity to talk about animal needs, uses, offspring, seasonal changes, etc. The package of materials includes ready-to-copy booklet masters and enough samples of wool, hay, straw, cattle, pig, and chicken feed for the entire class to create the booklets. Order this kit online from
Google Earth on the Range Repeat Photographs
Take a tour of Utah rangelands with historical photos. This kit includes 16 pairs of laminated photographs. Each pair of photos shows one location in Utah's rangeland at two different points in time, illustrating how factors like grazing, erosion, and management affect the landscape over time. Order these photographs online at
Ranch Starter Kit

Need a great way to connect students to rangeland? Have them start their own ranch! This kit includes a classroom set of jiffy peat pellet pots and enough grass seed to fill each pot. As your class learns about cattle grazing throughout our history, each student will be able to see how grazing can help - or hurt - rangeland, and will understand the importance of keeping our lands healthy. Order this kit online from

Animal Facts
This three-page informational sheet describes the processes of how an animal grows, how it gets from the farm to the store, and what products are produced from that animal. Words and simple graphics are used to portray this information for beef cattle, pigs, chickens, sheep, and dairy cows. Text may be difficult for young readers but can be used by teachers as a basic resource for descriptive purposes.
Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States
A collection of historical maps representing from 1839 until 1930 in the United States. View production maps of specific commodities such as corn, cotton, cattle, and wheat.
Chew It Twice Poster
Did you know that a cow spends six hours eating and eight hours chewing its cud each day? Use this 25" x 32" activity poster to follow the path food takes on its way through the cow. Order this poster online from
Compliments of Cattle Poster
Meat isn't the only product that comes from beef cattle. The by-products of beef production are used to make numerous everyday items like lipstick, perfume, paint, crayons, leather balls, and more. This black line coloring sheet depicts cattle using items that come to us “compliments of cattle.” Students can color cattle doing things like playing basketball, repairing cars, and putting on lipstick. As they are coloring, students can check off the list of everyday items that are made from beef cattle by-products. Download the lesson plan "Beef Basics" for great classroom activities and a shopping list to create your own beef by-products kit.
Interactive Map Project
Use this interactive map to help students see how geography and climate affects the production of agricultural crops. The map has USDA statistics built in to allow your students to answer questions such as, "Which state(s) produce the most cattle?" "Where does [my state] rank nationally in corn production?" "What region of the United States produces the most cotton?" etc. There are many agricultural maps available including field crops such as corn, wheat, barley, and alfalfa in addition to fruit and vegetable crops, ornamental nursery crops, and livestock.
Livestock Cards
Double-sided cards representing four livestock species. These cards can add a reading supplement activity to lesson plans to help teach the basic principles about beef cattle, dairy cattle, pigs, and poultry. The cards can be printed from the attached PDF or ordered from the Nebraska Foundation for Agricultural Awareness.
Who Makes the Best Burger?
This 42" x 25" bulletin board teaches students about the production of the ingredients in hamburgers. A large picture of a hamburger is featured in the middle of the bulletin board and pictures of the ingredients and their descriptions are in each corner. An envelope asking students to vote for "Who makes the best burger?" is included. The envelope can be removed after the voting to display the words "FARMERS and RANCHERS." The bulletin board is mailed in a reusable storage tube. Order this bulletin board online from
America's Heartland
America’s Heartland is a magazine-style, half-hour video series. The website and YouTube channel offer more than 700 episodes about farmers and ranchers providing food, fuel, and fiber for America and the world. The series strives to give urban viewers a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing modern agriculture today by providing informative and compelling stories about topics ranging from agricultural technology to consumer issues to crop sustainability. Video segments can be viewed from the website or YouTube and can be easily integrated into classroom discussions. Visit the website and search for videos by topic (e.g., dairy farm, cotton, cattle ranch, etc.).