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Plant Parts You Eat

Author(s): Nancy Moreno, PhD, and Barbara Tharp, MS.

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In this activity, students will observe different plant-based foods. They will discover that humans consume a remarkable variety of plants and plant parts, such as roots, seeds, leaves, flowers, and grains. 

Help students to remember basic plant parts, using a plant in the classroom or school yard as an example. Ask, Why are green plants special? (they make food through photosynthesis) Where do plants trap sunlight to make food? (leaves and other green parts) Where do plants take in the water and nutrients they need? (roots) How can we get more plants? (planting seeds or other reproductive plant parts, such as stem sections) Where do seeds come from? (flowers, which develop fruits and seeds)

Give each group of students a sheet of drawing paper, a plastic knife and one of the plant foods you have brought to class. Direct students to fold the sheet in fourths, creating four spaces in which to record information (see illustration on the slide). Allow students to observe and discuss their respective food items briefly before continuing.

Have groups provide the following information in the four squares on their sheets. In the first (top left) square, students should describe and/or draw the outside of the food. Before students fill in the second square (top right), direct them to cut the food in half or into several pieces, so that they can observe the interior. Have them write a description of, and/or draw the inside of the food in the second square. 

Have students use their observations to describe in the third square (bottom left) what plant part or parts is/are represented by the food. Students also should report the observations they used to reach their conclusions. For example, carrots have fine roots attached to the large central root, and some students may have observed that carrots grow underground, etc. In the final square (bottom right), have students report different ways to prepare and eat the food. You may want to spend an extra class period on this step, so students have time to visit the library or access the Internet to gather additional information.

Funded by the following grant(s)

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, NIH

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, NIH

My Health My World: National Dissemination
Grant Number: 5R25ES009259
The Environment as a Context for Opportunities in Schools
Grant Number: 5R25ES010698, R25ES06932