National Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix


Weather on the Farm

Grade Level(s)

K - 2

Estimated Time

Two, 45-minute sessions


In this lesson, students will use hands-on activities to learn about the water cycle and which areas of California have the best climates for growing different crops.


For each pair of students:

  • Plastic cup
  • Plastic wrap
  • Water
  • Tape
  • Crayons
  • Landform cutout

For each student:

Essential Files (maps, charts, pictures, or documents)


climate: the weather of a particular region over a series of years

condensation: water that collects as droplets on a cold surface when humid air is in contact with it

evaporation: the changing of a liquid into a gas

infiltration: to pass through a substance by filtering or permeating

precipitation: moisture in the form of rain, snow, sleet, or hail that falls to the ground

runoff: the draining away of water from the surface of an area of land

transpiration: the process where plants absorb water through the roots and give off water vapor through pores in their leaves

Background Agricultural Connections

This lesson is part of the Fun with the Plant Nutrient Team series which were written to help children better understand what the soil needs to be healthy in order to provide us with healthy foods. The lessons encourage students to think for themselves, ask questions, and learn problem-solving skills while learning the specific content needed to better understand the world in which they live. The lessons include:

Weather is the combination of sunlight, wind, snow or rain, and temperature in a particular region at a particular time. Weather is very important to farmers and it dictates when they plant, irrigate, feed, and harvest their crops. Weather is also important to consumers. If crops are damaged by weather events, this could cause a rise in prices at the grocery store as demand becomes higher than supply. While farmers cannot control the weather, they can sometimes do things to help their crops during potentially harmful conditions. For example, if there is danger of freezing weather, citrus farmers can put big fans in their orchards to keep air moving so the trees stay warmer and fruit on the trees does not freeze.

Climate is the weather of a particular region over a series of years. California has many different climate zones, which enable farmers in our state to grow a wide variety of crops. For example, our coastal climates have mild temperatures throughout the year, which make them good for growing cool weather crops like artichokes. Our foothill climates have cool, moist winters and hot, dry summers, which are good for growing crops like grapes and apples.

Farmers aren’t the only ones interested in weather. The oldest continually published periodical in the country is the Old Farmer’s Almanac, first published in 1792 when George Washington was president. Farmers, home gardeners, and outdoor enthusiasts are still referring to the Almanac for weather forecasts, planting days, tide tables, and more.

Two things that greatly affect the weather are the Earth’s water and sun. Water collects in the oceans, lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams. As the water is warmed by the sun, it heats up. When the water molecules heat up they move faster and faster until they become a gas and rise into the sky as water vapor. This is called evaporation. Once the water molecules get away from the heat on the land they start to cool down again and come back together as a liquid. This is called condensation. As the water molecules collect together they get heavier and heavier and then fall back down to the earth. This is called precipitation. Precipitation can be in the form or rain, sleet, snow, or hail. Some precipitation soaks into the ground in a process called infiltration, and some precipitation does not soak into the ground and instead moves over the surface of the ground as runoff until it returns to a body of water. Plants release water vapor from tiny holes in their leaves into the atmosphere. This process is called transpiration. Your class will simulate the water cycle process with the Water Cycle in a Cup activity.

Interest Approach – Engagement

  1. Show your students a picture of some of the following: tomatoes, oranges, strawberries, apples, or cotton. Point out that each of these items grows from a plant.
  2. Ask your students, "Where can these plants grow?" "When can they grow?" "Can they grow in the winter?" Use further questions to help students recognize that plants need specific kinds of weather (warmth, daylight, etc.) to grow.
  3. Summarize the Background Agricultural Connections for your students through a class discussion and notes on the board as needed. Inform them that they will be learning about farms and how the growth of our food is affected by the weather.


Activity 1: Water Cycle in a Cup

  1. Organize students into groups of two and explain the directions for the Water Cycle in a Cup activity. Review key vocabulary that are labeled on the water cycle diagram and make sure students understand their meaning.
  2. Color the landform handout.
  3. Tape the landform drawing to the back of the cup.
  4. Add 60 ml (1/4 cup) of water to the earth cup and cover with plastic to keep the water from evaporating.
  5. Mark the starting water level with a crayon with the current time.
  6. Place the cup outside in the sun for 1/2 hour.
  7. Observe and discuss changes.
  8. At the end of the activity, discuss with your class why weather is important to farmers, and how its impact on farmers affects everyone else. Make sure to talk about supply and demand and how weather events can impact the amount of money our families spend on food.

Activity 2: Where Should I Grow It?

  1. Provide students with the California Grows Map. Explain that the map shows each county and some of the top crops that are produced there.
  2. Discuss how the climate on the north coast would be different from the climate in the Sierra Nevada Range or in the south eastern desert region of our state. See if your class can find any patterns in the types of crops that are grown in different regions. Explain that some crops do best in hot, dry climates while others do best in mild, moist climates.
  3. At the bottom of their map instruct students to write down the following crops then draw an arrow to a region on the map where they think those crops would grow well.
    • Citrus trees: Grow best in areas that have little chance of freezing during the winter and have warm, dry summers.
    • Strawberries: Grow well in areas with warm, sunny days, and cool, foggy nights.
    • Cotton: Grows best in areas that have warm springtime weather, hot summers, dry falls and wet winters.
    • Tomatoes: Grow best in areas with warm days, cool nights, and fertile soil found in valleys where rivers have deposited rich soil.
    • Apples: Grow well in valleys of the foothills and northern coastal mountains where the winters are cool and wet and the summers are mild to hot.
    • Redwood trees: Need cool climates with a lot of fog and rainfall.

Concept Elaboration and Evaluation:

After concluding these activities review and summarize the following key concepts:

  • Farmers grow our food.
  • The weather affects the growth of our food.
  • If there is too much or too little sunshine, precipitation, or warmth it may affect how much food is harvested.

We welcome your feedback! Please take a minute to tell us how to make this lesson better or to give us a few gold stars!


Enriching Activities

  • Create an experiment with water cycle in a cup. Use the scientific method and write up a report. Make observations over a period of 1/2 hour, one hour, one day and two days. Measure the amount of water that is left after observations.

  • Complete page 18 of the Fun With the Plant Nutrient Team student activity book.

Suggested Companion Resources

Agricultural Literacy Outcomes

Agriculture and the Environment

  • Provide examples of how weather patterns affect plant and animal growth for food (T1.K-2.d)

Plants and Animals for Food, Fiber & Energy

  • Explain how farmers work with the lifecycle of plants and animals (planting/breeding) to harvest a crop (T2.K-2.a)

Education Content Standards


K-ESS2: Earth's Systems

  • K-ESS2-1
    Use and share observations of local weather conditions to describe patterns over time.

K-ESS3: Earth and Human Activity

  • K-ESS3-1
    Use a model to represent the relationship between the needs of different plants or animals (including humans) and the places they live.
  • K-ESS3-2
    Ask questions to obtain information about the purpose of weather forecasting to prepare for, and respond to, severe weather.

K-PS3: Energy

  • K-PS3-1
    Make observations to determine the effect of sunlight on Earth’s surface.
  • K-PS3-2
    Use tools and materials to design and build a structure that will reduce the warming effect of sunlight on an area.

Common Core Connections

Reading: Anchor Standards

    Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.
    Analyze the structure of texts, including how specific sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text (e.g., a section, chapter, scene, or stanza) relate to each other and the whole.

Speaking and Listening: Anchor Standards

    Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

Language: Anchor Standards

    Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases by using context clues, analyzing meaningful word parts, and consulting general and specialized reference materials, as appropriate.

Writing: Anchor Standards

    Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.


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