Oklahoma Ag in the Classroom

October Page

"I long ago decided that the first human right for which people fight is the right to eat." -Eleanor Roosevelt

World Food Day is October 16.

This year's theme is: Change the future of migration. Invest in food security and rural development.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations celebrates World Food Day each year on October 16, the day on which the FAO was founded in 1945. This year's theme is "Family Farming: Feeding the World, Caring for the Earth."

FAO Hunger Map

Norman Borlaug, Hunger Fighter

Norman Borlaug received the peace prize in 1970, primarily for his work in reversing food shortages in India and Pakistan in the 1960s. Before Borlaug introduced his high yield agriculture techniques, mass starvations had been predicted in many parts of the world. Instead, food production has expanded faster than human population in all parts of the world except sub-Saharan Africa.

Borlaug founded the International Maize and Wheat Center—located in Mexico and known by its Spanish acronym, CIMMYT—where he helped to develop the high-yield, low pesticide dwarf wheat upon which a substantial portion of the world's population now depends for sustenance.

Borlaug found many benefits to growing plants with shorter stalks. Nature favors genes for tall stalks, because in nature, plants must compete for access to sunlight. Borlaug found that equally short-stalked plants would receive equal amounts of sunlight when they did not have to compete with taller-stalked plants. In addition, dwarf wheat uses more energy growing valuable grain rather than using its energy growing tall, inedible stalks. Stout, short stalks also support wheat kernels better. Tall-stalked wheat may bend over at maturity, making it more difficult to harvest.

Borlaug particularly favored growing wheat in countries where starvation was a concern because wheat grows in nearly all environments and is resistant to insects.

Writing Prompt: Students use online or library resources to research and write reports on Norman E. Borlaug and the Green Revolution.

Norman Borlaug, Hunger Fighter

Activity: Wheat Plant Model

  1. Students will build a model of a wheat plant and determine the best stalk length for holding up the grain.
  2. Provide copies of the Scientific Study Format.
  3. Provide students with materials for building the model of a wheat plant: strips of card stock for the stalks, glue, and dried beans to represent the grains or use pipe cleaners and beads and predict and measure the length only.
  4. Students will predict the correct width and length to cut the card stock so it will hold up the beans.
  5. Students will write their predictions in the space provided on the Scientific Study Format.
  6. Students will share their predictions with the class, and the class will predict the probability of success for each prediction.
  7. Students will measure and cut the card stock into the widths and lengths they have predicted.
  8. Students will glue 3-4 beans to each strip.
  9. Students will test to see if their "wheat stalks" will hold up their "grain heads."
  10. Students will adjust the dimensions of their "stalks" as necessary.
  11. Students will write the results of their experiments.
  12. Students will graph the results as a class.

A letter to Ag in the Classroom teachers from Nobel Peace Prize winner Norman Borlaug


Oklahoma Food Bank Network

Isn't it ironic? Oklahoma is one of 13 states in the US with an obesity rate of 30 percent or more, but we also rank seventh in the nation in the number of people per capita who are hungry. One in every five of our children lives in poverty and is at risk of going to bed hungry. How does that happen?

According to a study by the Center on Hunger and Poverty, one factor that may contribute is that many lower-cost foods have relatively higher levels of calories per dollar than more nutritious foods. Another factor is the lack of access to nutritious foods in some parts of the state. Thirty-two of Oklahoma's 77 counties are classified as food deserts, meaning that at least 25 percent of the population lives 10 miles or more from a supermarket.

The Gleaners, by Jean Francois Millet


Bartoletti, Susan Campbell, Black Potatoes: The Story of the Great Irish Famine, 1845-1850. Houghton-Mifflin, 2001. (Grades 4-6)

In 1845, a mysterious blight attacked the potato crops in Ireland, turning the potatoes black and destroying the only real food of nearly six million people. Over the next five years the blight attacked again and again. These years became known as the Great Irish famine, a time when one million people died from starvation and disease and two million more fled their homeland.

Cooper, Michael, Dust to Eat, Drought and Depression in the 1930s, Clarion, 2005. (Grades 6-8)

Personal stories of survival during the Great Depression and Dust Bowl within the Great Plains, with depictions of migrant camps and description of President Roosevelt's response to those in need.

Hesser, Leon, The Man Who Fed the World: Nobel Prize Laureate Norman Borlaug and His Battle to End World Hunger, DurbanHouse, 2006. (Young Adult)

Nobel prize winner for averting hunger and famine, Borlaug is credited with saving hundreds of millions from starvation.

More Ag-Related Books for Children and Young Adults

October Page

Oklahoma Ag in the Classroom


Oklahoma Ag in the Classroom is a program of the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service, the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry and the Oklahoma State Department of Education