The Story of Food

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The Story of Food (aka The Story of Soil)

Lesson Summary

Students will examine the origin of their food by identifying the ingredients and tracing them back to gardens and farms. 


Students will be able to:

  • Identify the source of matter and energy for different organisms in an ecosystem. 
  • Identify producers, consumers, and decomposers in a food system
  • Explain where food comes from
  • Describe the relationship between themselves and elements in the food system


  • Tell the story of food with out assistance
  • Write a perspective story from the point of view of a seed
  • Food system community web
  • Changes in conversation about food

Age group: 4th-6th

Venue: Garden


Paper and markers

 Time: 15-20 mins

Set up: None


The Lesson Plan

Hook Activities

  • Garden Scavenger Hunt (p. 34)
  • Local in Lunch lesson
  • Taste Tour in the Garden
  • Walk IslandWood's Food System after lunch with lunch waste and use journal as you go to each space as a group (p. 35)


Who has every told a story?  Who has every told a story backwards, where you start at the end and go back to the beginnings?  That's what we're going to do!  We're going to tell, "The Story of Food" (write at the top of your paper) backwards and then we’re going to tell it forwards. 


  • Ask, "Who enjoyed lunch (or breakfast) today at IW? " Check thumb-o-meters (most will be a big up).  So my story ends with happy kids.  Draw a row of happy kids under the title
  • Now think about your favorite part of your lunch. 
    • If you had a favorite part, raise your hand. 
    • Get input from kids - let's say the answer is "strawberry jam" (draw a tub of strawberry jam under the row of kids). 
    • Where does strawberry jam come from?  What's in it?  Kids: it comes from strawberries and sugar (mostly).  Where do strawberries come from?  Farms! Gardens! 
    • Make a link from jam to strawberries to farms/gardens.  Get input from 3 to 5 kids total, depending on time and attention.  Link all of the foods to their ingredients back to farms and gardens. 
  • Ask them for another part of the meal they liked or get another answer from a different student.  Trace that food to its source on the butcher paper also. 
  • What do we need on the farm to grow the food? 
    • Anticipated Student Responses: light, air, water, soil, seeds, people etc. 
    • Have students write these words under "Farm / Garden"
  • Write "soil" along the bottom.  Write Light, Air, Water - so they can see it spells LAW. 
  • All right - here are some tough questions for you: 
    • If we don't have air, can we have strawberry jam (cover up "air" with your hand)? 
    • If you don't have water, can you have tortilla chips (cover up “water”)? 
    • If you don't have soil, can you eat cheese? 
    • Does all food need soil?  Can you think of anything that you eat that doesn't need soil?  (potential stumpers to be ready for:  salt (from the sea or salt mines), fish (most need sediment at some point in their life), and aeroponics (growing plants without soil, using air and water misters with nutrients in the water). 


  • Tell the story forward, starting with the soil, seeds, light, air, water - moving to the farm/garden - tracing the ingredients to the sandwich that they ate for lunch, and then to happy kids. 
    • For example:  There once was a Farmer names Sally.  She pulled out the grass in her yard and turned it into a big garden.  She added compost to give nutrients to the soil.  She planted some small strawberry plants, took good care of them, and made sure that they had lots of Light, Air, and Water.  When they were ripe, she picked all of the strawberries.  She smashed the berries and then added some sugar.  The sugar grows far away in Hawaii - on a farm.  The jam was delicious!  She brought it to IslandWood and shared it with all the kids in Team Pond, which made them very happy!  The End.
  • Then ask a few of the kids to also tell the story forward. 

Debrief Options

From here, you have choices: 

  • Review Producers and Consumers by circling them on your chart.
  • Review Biotic and Abiotic by marking them on your chart. 
  • Turn it into a stewardship lesson by asking, "How can YOU take good care of the soil?"
  • Turn it into an empowering lesson:  Can you grow food at home or school?  How would you do it?

Relevant Journal Pages

  • Garden Scavenger Hunt p.34
  • IslandWood's Food System p.35

Written by Megan Carson and Jen Prodzinksi, 2014