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​​Adventurous Activities 






Persimmons | Tomatoes | Winter Squash


Science Exploration:
Cut persimmons will brown when exposed to air. Ask students to first research the concept of enzymatic browning or oxidation. Have students hypothesize what can be done to prevent this reaction from occurring. Then test students’ hypotheses in an experiment using both Fuyu and Hachiya persimmons.  Students can compile information on graphs and present to their peers.

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Farm to School:
Ask a local tree fruit farmer or horticulturist to hold a hands-on grafting demonstration in the school garden. If possible, arrange for a demonstration using persimmon trees.

For information on Farm to School programs, visit:

Cultural Expressions:
Divide students into groups to research the ancient Japanese art of hoshigaki. Have students select a topic of interest and develop a presentation to the class. Topics may include:

  • Demonstration of method used to hand-dry the fruit
  • How the practice/art evolved and how it is different today
  • Historical significance in Asian culture
  • Global locations of where it is practiced today

For background information, visit:

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Tomato Technology:
Many factors affect agricultural production.  Techniques like selective breeding, genetic engineering and more efficient farming practices have allowed growers to produce crops that are more plentiful, safer for the environment, more nutritious and better tasting.  Research how tomato production has evolved with advancing technology.

Adapted from:  Catch Up on Tomato Technology, CFAITC, 2001.

Botany Introduction:
Use the tomato as a model to discuss the botanical features of fruits and vegetables. Discuss why the tomato is botanically a fruit, not a vegetable. (Refer to How Do Tomatoes Grow?) Consider posing the following questions:

  • What botanical criteria is used to determine if a plant is a fruit or vegetable?
  • Why is the tomato often labeled as a vegetable? (Link to A Slice of Tomato History.)
  • What are some other examples of fruits that are commonly mistaken as vegetables?

For information, visit:

Science Exploration:

  • Use a microscope or hand-held lens to examine the different parts of a tomato, such as the skin, seeds and pulp.
  • Draw a cross-section of a tomato and label the parts.
  • Draw what you see in the microscope; compare to other fruits and vegetables you have studied.

Adapted from: California Agriculture in the Classroom, www.cfaitc.org

Calendar Connection:
To celebrate National 5 A Day Month, have students vote for their favorite fruit or vegetable to eat. Then have the class vote on which one(s) to plant in the school garden.

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Winter Squash

Calendar Connection:
Celebrate National School Lunch Week by having students write journal entries every day of what they ate for lunch. 

  • Have students monitor how they feel (tired, energetic, etc.,).
  • Use the NutritionData® Custom Data Entry tool to complete a nutrient analysis of their lunches (www.nutritiondata.com). 
  • Compare journal entries between school lunches and lunches from home.

For more ideas, visit:

Science Investigations:

  • Investigate the life cycle of a squash blossom. (Hint: Male and female flowers have different cycles. The male flower has the stamen and pollen; the female has the pistil.)
  • Find out which winter squash varieties sink or float.
    • Chart student predictions.
    • Conduct simple sink/float experiment.
    • Discuss outcomes.
    • Have students hypothesize why some varieties sink and others float.

For more ideas, visit:

Language Expressions:

  • Explore the multiple meanings of the word squash.
  • Write a sensory poem about your favorite winter squash variety. Use observations from the Exploring California Winter Squash activity.

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Dried Fruits | Mandarins | Cabbages

Dried Fruits

Geography Exploration:
California leads the nation in total fruit and vegetable production.  Have students explore California’s geography to learn why California is able to grow a diverse variety of fruits and vegetables.  Topics to study may include:

  • State and regional climates
  • Land features and general topography
  • Annual and monthly precipitation
  • Types of soil

Science Investigations:

  • California produces two main varieties of raisins: purple and golden. Both varieties are dried using the purple Thomson seedless grape variety. Have students research the drying processes for purple versus golden raisins. Then set-up an experiment for students to dry Thomson seedless grapes to see if they can yield both purple and golden raisins.
  • Prior to raisins being shipped to market, their moisture content is raised from about 15 to 30 percent to re-hydrate or “plump” the raisins. There are a number of variables that can affect this process, including water temperature and water mineral content. Set up an activity to demonstrate the re-hydration process.
  • Not all plum varieties can be dried. The California plum variety is unique for its high sugar content that prevents fermentation from occurring around the pit. It possible, conduct an experiment using California plums and other varieties.

For more ideas, visit:

Problem Solving:

  • According to the USDA, the average American consumes about 139 pounds of fruit each year.
    • At this rate, how many pounds of fruit will your family eat in one year?
    • How many pounds of fruit will your entire class eat in one year?
    • How many cups are in 139 pounds?
    • If you eat two cups of fruit every day for one year, will you be above or below the American average for fruit consumption?
    • If one-fourth of fruit eaten by Americans is dried, how many pounds of dried fruit does the average person consume?
  • A plum tree can produce up to 300 pounds of plums per year (or about 100 pounds of dried plums). In 2002, California produced about 171,000 tons of dried plums.
    • How many pounds of fresh plums did California grow? (Hint: There are 2,000 pounds in one ton.)
    • If all plum trees produced 300 pounds of fresh plums, how many trees were in California in 2002?
    • California has about 70,000 acres of plum trees. If there are an equal number of trees on each acre, how many trees are planted on each acre?

History Exploration:
The date palm and fig (bo) trees are two of the world’s oldest fruit trees. Have students research each tree’s significance to different groups of people. Regions and cultures to study may include:

  • East Asia (Buddhism, Hinduism)
  • Middle East (Judaism, Christianity, Islam)
  • Africa (ancient Egyptians)
  • Eastern and/or Western Europe (ancient Greeks and Romans)

Farm to School:

Invite a dried fruit producer to your classroom to demonstrate the drying process.

For information on Farm to School programs, visit:

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Science Investigation:
As students will learn from the Student Sleuths, the USDA recognizes three species of the genus Citrus: the mandarin (C. reticulata), the citron (C. medica) and the pomelo (C. maxima).  Within these species are dozens of sub-species, or cultivars, as well as natural and man-made hybrids.  Common hybrids include the orange, grapefruit, lemon, lime and tangelo.  Discuss the taxonomy system and how fruits and vegetables are bontanically classified.  Then have students complete the following activity:

  • Work in groups of three to six students
  • Develop a “new” citrus hybrid or other fruit
  • Describe the fruit characteristics (e.g., reproduction, growth, color, seeds, texture)
  • Classify fruit according to characteristics (from Kingdom to Species)
  • Present fruit and taxonomy chart to class

Geography Exploration:
Citrus grows best between latitudes 35 N and 35 S.

  • Use a United States map to identify all states located within these latitudes.
  • Note similarities in geography features, including climate.
  • Locate on same map the nation’s top citrus and mandarin growers.
  • Use a world map to identify countries located within these latitudes.
  • Locate the world’s top citrus and mandarin growers.
  • Use results to answer the following questions:
    • What features do these regions have in common?
    • How are these regions different?
    • How do geographical differences affect the quality or type of citrus fruit each region grows? (Hint: Consider how California grown citrus is marketed versus how Florida grown citrus is marketed.)

Math Solutions:

  • Measure and graph the peel to fruit weight ratios of several different citrus fruits (oranges, mandarins, lemons, grapefruits, limes, etc.).
  • Count and graph the number of segments in a Satsuma, tangerine and tangelo.
  • Measure the circumferences of different citrus fruits.
  • Use local grocery store ads (featuring specials on select produce items) to have students write and solve word problems.

Science Investigations:

  • Perform an experiment to show the effects of freezing temperatures on citrus fruits.
  • Test the pH levels of various citrus fruits.
  • Determine the percentage of water in various citrus fruits.
  • Implement “A Sour Subject” Lesson Plan #602 (edited by Pamela Emery).

Economics Introduction:

  • Compile ads of at least three different local grocery store ads for minimum of three to four weeks.
  • Chart weekly prices of produce items for each store.
  • Compare prices of like produce items between stores.

Hint: To best demonstrate supply and demand concept, continue activity for several months (e.g., note prices changes in items that are seasonal).

Adapted from: Fruits and Vegetables Galore, USDA, 2004.

Farm to School:

  • Invite a local citrus grower to the classroom to discuss their farm operation.

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Science Investigation:
Use cabbage juice to determine whether a substance is an acid or base.


  • Can opener
  • 1 can red cabbage (not sauerkraut)
  • Colander
  • Small bowl
  • Measuring spoons
  • 3 glass jars
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon distilled water


  • Open can of cabbage
  • Use colander to drain cabbage juice into bowl.
  • Put two tablespoons (30 ml) of juice into each glass jar.
  • Add vinegar to first jar.  Record color of juice.
  • Add baking soda to second jar.  Record juice color.
  • Add distilled water to third jar.  Record juice color.
  • Discuss results.

Sample Discussion:
Acids and bases are chemicals with distinct properties. Red cabbage juice is a chemical indicator of acids and bases. This means that the juice will turn color when either an acid or base is present. (Hint: Red cabbage juice turns redder with acids and green with bases. Darker colors indicate a stronger chemical.) Common acids that can be found in the kitchen are lemons, apple juice, orange juice, black coffee and vinegar. Common basic elements include baking soda and egg whites.

Adapted from: The Science Chef Travels around the World, Joan D’Amico and Karen Drummond, 1996.

Literary Expressions:

  • Discuss poetry and literary style elements (e.g., rhyming, alliteration, similes, metaphors, onomatopoeia, allusions, haikus, etc.).
  • Make a Venn diagram to compare and contrast different cabbage varieties (e.g., red versus green).
  • Use observations from Exploring California Cabbages activity to make list of sensory terms.
  • Select one cabbage variety and use sensory terms to write an “Ode to Cabbage.”
  • Read poems aloud in class. Record what style elements are used in each poem.

Cabbage Patch Math:

  • Predict which is heavier – raw or cooked cabbage? Weigh a sample of raw cabbage. Then microwave sample and weigh again. Analyze results. (May also bake, boil or steam cabbage to yield different results. Discuss why different cooking methods result in differences in mass.)
  • Estimate and measure the circumference of cabbage heads. Compare varieties.
  • Use circumference results to find volume of cabbage heads.

School Garden – Class Cookbook:  

  • Complete the School Garden activity, Grow a Head.
  • While cabbage is growing, have students bring in family recipes with cabbage as an ingredient.
  • Have students complete nutrient analyses of recipes and provide recommendations of healthier ingredient options.
  • Compile recipes in class cookbook.
  • Distribute cookbook at Open House or use for a school fund-raising event.

It’s Still Art:

  • Do a still-life drawing of a cabbage head.
  • Make a poster of fruits and vegetables that are excellent sources of Vitamin C.
  • Make a poster featuring cabbage and the various ways/forms it can be prepared.

For more ideas, visit:

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Asparagus | Avocados | Peas


History Exploration:
Asparagus has been cultivated for more than 2,500 years by people worldwide.  It continues today to be a universal vegetable, grown and consumed in Asia, Europe, South America and North America.  Have students research a historical topic of interest and then write an essay or deliver a living history presentation.  Topics may include:

  • Research the early beginnings of the California asparagus industry.  Who were the first people to start growing asparagus?  Why did growers produce more green asparagus?  When and why did fresh asparagus become more common than canned or frozen asparagus?
  • Research the medicinal uses of asparagus.  Hypothesize why asparagus was used for these purposes.
  • Choose a culture, a group of people or country and research the role asparagus has played in its society or agricultural economy.  Include significant recipes, holidays, medicinal uses, literature and/or economical impact.

Introduction to Economics (Grades K-5):


  • Teach concepts of cooperation and competition in business.
  • Demonstrate labor process of harvesting field crops.


  • Green construction paper; 10 sheets per each group
  • Scissors; two pairs per each group
  • Shoe boxes; one box per each group
  • Rubber bands; 20 per each group


  • Divide students into teams of five or six.
  • Designate one area of room as “the field.” Place construction paper and scissors in the field.
  • Designate another area of room as “the end of field row.” Place rubber bands and shoe boxes at the end of field row.
  • Students in field cut paper into one-inch strips and deliver it to the end of field row.
  • Students at end of field row bundle strips into tens with a rubber band; then pack in crate (shoe box).
  • Perform activity several times to allow students to find ways to make process more efficient.
  • Make teams smaller or larger to demonstrate changes in labor supply.

Introduction to Economics (Grades 6-12):
Students can become virtual asparagus farmers. Have students research the harvesting process for California asparagus and complete the following exercises.

  • Develop a spreadsheet estimating how many people it takes to harvest an acre of asparagus. Determine what are the average growing costs.
  • Determine what percentage of growing costs can be attributed to labor.
  • For what price would you need to sell your asparagus at a local farmers’ market to break even? To make a profit? (Be sure to remember travel costs and any expenses associated with participating in a farmers’ market.)

For information, visit:

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Science Investigations:

  • Cut two avocados in half and remove seeds.  Squeeze lemon juice over one half, apple juice over another, salt over another and leave the fourth one alone.  Discuss oxidation as a class.
  • Cut open an avocado seed.  Identify the seed parts:  embryo, cotyledons and seed coat.  Draw the seed’s cross-section.
  • Study the parts of a flower’s matured ovary (the fruit).  Cut open an avocado.  Identify the three pericarp layers:  exocarp, mesocarp and endocarp.  Discuss which facts classify the avocado as a fruit.*

*Accompany with above Student Sleuths.

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Math Solutions:

  • Measure length and width of green and edible-pod peas.
  • Weigh whole green and edible-pod peas.
  • Use a minimum of five pods to calculate averages.
  • Take metric measurements.
  • Convert to standard measurements.
  • Shell peas and calculate average number in one pod.
  • Guess how many peas are in on-half cup.  Shell peas to find answer.
  • Weigh shelled peas (grams) to calculate number of peas in one pound.

Critical Thinking and Sensory Exploration:

  • Make a Venn diagram to compare and contrast green and edible-pod peas.
  • Use observations from the Exploring California Green Peas activity to fill in diagram. (Use sensory terms and adjectives for descriptions.)
  • Find average length and width of pods. Count number of seeds in pods. Include results in diagram.
  • Tape pods to window or light source and draw what you see.
  • Analyze the differences between green and edible-pod peas. Hypothesize what factors in the growing process may result in these differences.

Science Investigations:

  • Dissect a pea pod. Draw the veins of the pod and how peas are arranged within the pod.
  • Research Gregor Mendel’s study of genetics. Use your findings to answer these questions:
    • How did Mendel use pea plants in his study?
    • Why did he decide to use pea plants?
    • What traits did Mendel study in the pea plants and their seeds?
    • What were his findings?
    • How did he use these findings to formulate his conclusions on genetics?

Literary Expressions:

  • Trace the etymology of the word pea.
  • Research Norse and Roman legends for anecdotes about peas.
  • Find old nursery rhymes that include references to peas.

History Exploration:
Many sources indicate that the English pea was Thomas Jefferson’s favorite vegetable. At one point, Jefferson had more than 30 different pea varieties planted in his garden at Monticello, where he studied them extensively. Research Jefferson’s writings on the English pea. Compare it with his study of other vegetation in his garden.

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Melons | Peaches | Potatoes


Calendar Connection:

Family History Day takes place in the middle of June.  Celebrate students’ family history, culture and traditions.

  • Ask students to interview older relatives to find out when and how their families came to California.
  • Include questions that explore what family members did when they first arrived in California, including:
    • What foods they ate and recipes they used;
    • How and where they got their food; and
    • What types of activities and/or hobbies they enjoyed.
  • Have students write a report or give presentation to class on their family history.
  • Make classroom charts to display from where students’ families came and for how long they have lived in California.

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Hint:  Coordinate with Exploring California Melons activity on page 1.

Melon Math:

  • Estimate the weight of each melon variety; measure weight and record.
  • Estimate the circumference, surface area and volume of each variety; measure and record.
  • Compare weight and size measurements for each variety.
  • Determine if there is a correlation between weight and size.  Why or why not?
  • Determine the edible portion of each melon variety and weigh, if possible.
  • Compare the ratio of fruit to rind for each melon variety.
  • Estimate and record number of seeds in each variety.
  • Determine which variety has the most number of seeds.

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