National Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix
FoodMASTER Middle: Protein
6 - 8
Three 1-hour activities
Students will examine dietary sources of protein and generally understand the relationship between protein synthesis and amino acids while completing an activity to use beads as a representation of amino acids to construct proteins (polypeptide chains). Students will identify complete and/or incomplete proteins found in both animal and plant food sources.
Student Lab Materials, per group of 4-5 students:
- Protein Connection student handout, 1 per student
- The Building Blocks lab sheet, 1 per student
- Amino Acid Color Chart
- 4 Craft pipe cleaners
- 1 sandwich bag labeled “meat” containing 44 beads total (2 of each color of the 22 colors, no clear)
- 1 sandwich bag labeled “rice and beans” containing 44 beads total (2 of each color, no clear)
- 1 sandwich bag labeled “peanut” containing 44 beads total (2 of each color except for those assigned to Methionine and Tryptophan, and 4 clear beads)
- 1 sandwich bag labeled “toast” containing 44 beads total (2 of each color except for those assigned to Lysine and Isoleucine, and 4 clear beads)
Investigating Your Health Activity
- Healthy Proteins student handout, 1 per student
Essential Files (maps, charts, pictures, or documents)
- The Building Blocks Teacher Key
- The Building Blocks lab sheet
- Protein Connection Teacher Key
- Protein Connection student handout
Protein: a class of organic compounds containing Nitrogen, Hydrogen, Oxygen, and Carbon that consist of molecules composed of one or more chains of amino acids.
amino acids: An organic compound that links together to build a protein. Amino acids have three different structural components: a side chain of carbon and hydrogen, a carboxylic acid group, and an amino group
complementary proteins: two or more proteins that work together to provide adequate amounts of the essential amino acids
limiting amino acids: an amino acid that cannot be synthesized in the body and can limit protein synthesis when deficient
synthesis: the chemical production of a substance by changing or combining similar substances
Did you know? (Ag Facts)
- Complete proteins (whole proteins) are proteins that contain all nine of the essential amino acids.1
- Protein is found in foods from both plant and animal sources.1
- Unlike fat and starch, the human body does not store excess amino acids for later use. Therefore they must be consumed in our food each day.1
Background Agricultural Connections
Interest Approach – Engagement
- Display the following picture collage. Ask students to observe the foods and identify a common nutrient that all 7 foods contain. Allow students time to think and offer their answers. If needed, give the clue that this nutrient is found abundantly in some foods minimally in others. (protein)
- Ask students:
- What is protein?
- What foods provide protein in our diets?
- What are the building blocks of protein?
- Review information found in the Background Agricultural Connections section of the lesson, lesson Procedures, and the attached Essential Files.
- Assign one bead or bead combination to each amino acid. Students will need to be given the key prior to beginning their lab. You may choose to provide each student group with a visual key using the Amino Acid Color Chart. The chart lists each amino acid name and abbreviation. Place corresponding beads on each amino acid.
- For each group, prepare four plastic bags containing a mixture series of “amino acids” for building each protein. Each bag should be labeled “Meat”, “Peanut”, “White Rice and Beans”, or “Toast” and contain 2 of each different colored “amino acids” (40 beads total) with the below exceptions:
- Meat Amino Acids: No missing amino acid
- Peanut Amino Acids: Missing Methionine and Tryptophan (replace both with clear beads)
- Toast Amino Acids: Missing Lysine and Isoleucine (replace both with clear beads)
- White Rice and Beans Amino Acids: No missing amino acid
- NOTE: See student Materials list: 8 beads will be left over representing the limiting amino acids from toast and peanuts
- Timesaver: Assign bead colors to each amino acid ahead of time. Consider using the supplemental Amino Acid Color Chart as a template by attaching (e.g. gluing) the beads directly to the chart. Provide one chart to each student group. Direct each group member to construct one protein molecule or assign students a strand to construct for homework.
- TIP: If materials are not available, use the amino acid color chart (no colors) for the symbols. Copy the amino acid color chart as is for meat, and rice and beans. For peanuts, white-out the abbreviations Met and Trp and copy. For toast, white out Lys and Ile and copy. Students can then cut out the amino acid symbols and place them in the correct order. The amino acid symbols may be glued to another sheet of paper if desired.
- Distribute lab materials. It is recommended that materials are organized into stations for easier distribution. Students should be arranged in small groups of 4-5. Each group should receive the lab supplies outlined in the Materials section as well as 1 copy of The Building Blocks lab sheet and the Protein Connection handout.
- Ask students to read Protein Connection and complete the focus questions for this lab investigation.
- Launch the lab by asking students to predict which foods are considered complete proteins.
- Timesaver: Instruct students to work individually within their groups. Each student can construct one of the four proteins to speed up the process.
- Allow students to construct their protein models. Show students The Building Blocks lab demonstration video to show an example of how to construct a protein model.
- Students should find two of the food sources (bag of beads) are missing one or two amino acids (colored bead).
- Remind students to use a clear bead to represent any missing amino acid.
- Meat: Animals proteins are complete.
- Peanuts: Plant-based proteins are not complete, unless paired with another plant-based food that contains the missing amino acid. Legumes are missing the amino acids methionine and tryptophan.
- Toast: Plant-based proteins are not complete. Grain sources are typically missing isoleucine and lysine. Lysine is particularly low in grain sources that have been exposed heated, such as toast.
- White Rice and Beans: Plant-based proteins are not complete. Beans are typically missing methionine and tryptophan. On the other hand, grain sources are missing isoleucine and lysine. When the two are eaten together, the amino acids within each food combine to create a complete amino acid profile.
- Allow students to work in small groups on The Building Blocks lab sheet to further explore the topic and respond to lab questions.
- Consider allowing students to keep their protein strand. Students can wear the strand around their wrist like a bracelet and discuss what they learned about protein and sources of proteins with others.
Investigating Your Health Activity:
- Instruct students to research various sources of lean protein prior to beginning the investigation.
- Using the provided student background or information learned from researching protein sources, students should examine the food labels for three types of ground meat (i.e. 73% ground beef, 93% lean ground beef, and 93% lean ground turkey).
- Students can find food labels in the grocery store, on USDA’s nutrient database, or use the labels provided below.
- If you choose to use the provided protein food labels, see the Teacher Key attached in the Essential Files portion of the lesson for answers to the Investigating Your Health lab questions. Answers to questions based on other food labels will vary.
- If completed in-class, allow students to work in small groups on the handout to further explore the topic and respond to questions.
- Follow-up with a class discussion about student findings related to the health benefits of consuming lean sources of protein.
Concept Elaboration and Evaluation:
After conducting these activities, review and summarize the following key concepts:
- Protein is an essential nutrient in our diet.
- Meat provides a dense source of protein to our diets. Other plant-based foods such as soy-based products, nuts, and beans also contain protein, but typically in smaller quantities.
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!
Build a model of an amino acid showing each molecule (C, O, H and N) and how they are bonded together (single vs. double). You can use play-doh and toothpicks or straws to make amino acid models. Select a different color play-doh for each atom (C, O, H, and N). Connect each of them based on amino acid structure using one or two toothpicks/straws depending on the type of bond (single or double).
Explore protein structures using the protein strands created with beads and pipe cleaners.
Suggested Companion Resources
Agricultural Literacy Outcomes
Food, Health, and Lifestyle
- Evaluate food labels to determine food sources that meet nutritional needs (T3.6-8.b)
- Identify agricultural products (foods) that provide valuable nutrients for a balanced diet (T3.6-8.g)
- Identify sources of agricultural products that provide food, fuel, clothing, shelter, medical, and other non-food products for their community, state, and/or nation (T3.6-8.i)
Education Content Standards
MS-LS1 From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes
MS-LS1-7Develop a model to describe how food is rearranged through chemical reactions forming new molecules that support growth and/or release energy as this matter moves through an organism.
Common Core Connections
Reading: Anchor Standards
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.1Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.10Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.3Analyze how and why individuals, events, or ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.4Interpret 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.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.7Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.
Speaking and Listening: Anchor Standards
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.1Prepare 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
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.1Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
Writing: Anchor Standards
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.2Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.