Better Dirt, Better Lives


Explain why a fraction a/b is equivalent to a fraction (n × a)/(n × b) by using visual fraction models, with attention to how the number and size of the parts differ even though the two fractions themselves are the same size. Use this principle to recognize and generate equivalent fractions.

📲Technology Required

Students will need an iPad, Mac or Windows computer with the Fish Lake game installed. A video can be substitute for students who do not have access to one of these devices.


30 minutes


Begin with playing the Fish Lake game. A video of the section on crop rotation may be used by schools that don’t have Fish Lake installed. Give a presentation (included) on crop rotation. Watch a video on “What is one-half” and end the lesson with a presentation (included) on whether one-half is fair.


Play Fish Lake or watch video of game play

Even though you can use this lesson without playing the game, I urge you to install Fish Lake on your iPads, Mac or Windows computers. You can download it for free for computers. For iPads, email for a discount code and we’ll get back to you the same day. Seriously, even if you normally use Chromebook, it will be a nice break and your students will love it. We recommend letting them play for 15 minutes.

Play the game Fish Lake, (available to Growing Math schools, on iPad, Windows or Mac computers). If students do not have devices to access the game, students can watch a video here.

Slide presentation on crop rotation

Use this Google slides presentation to explain crop rotation as more than just being sure each farmer did her fair share of the work or had a fair share of the fields. It was good science.

Watch a short video: What is half ?

This short (1:40) video explains that one-half is two equal parts, with examples of one-half as a distance between two points or as a shape divided into two parts.

Slide presentation on one-half as fair

Use this Google slides presentation to show two halves are equal and that 2/4 = 1/2. Multiple examples of dividing something in half are given, from six blankets to half a deer. Students can also read the presentation and manipulate the examples on their own.

Half a deer


Fish Lake data reports are available for teachers to access after students have finished playing.  

Scrambled states: Ag in math

📖 Standard

NGSS 4-LS1-1:  Construct an argument that plants and animals have internal and external structures that function to support survival, growth, behavior, and reproduction.

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.3.MD.B.4 Generate measurement data by measuring lengths using rulers marked with halves and fourths of an inch. Show the data by making a line plot,

⏰ Time

3-4 hours over 4-5 sessions. The data collection will need to be completed at least two weeks after the seeds are planted.

📲 Technology Required

No technology is required. Students may use Jamboard for line plots and Google docs for word journals, but both of these activities can also be done on paper.

📃 Summary

Teachers read an age appropriate book about plants and record new vocabulary in their personal dictionary. The teacher or student selects an agriculture activity from the booklet More Scrambled States of Agriculture. Garden in a glove is one recommended activity. Students collect and record data on the number of days until germination, showing the results in one more more line plots.

📚 Lesson

It is recommended that this lesson follow the Scrambled States: Ag in Language Arts unit.

Read an age appropriate book about plants.

Both the lesson plan for Garden in a Glove and More Scrambled States of Agriculture booklet have several recommendations for age appropriate books on plants in general or specific plants, like wheat. Teachers may wish to read the book aloud to the class, have students take turns reading aloud, either in groups or as a whole class, or assign to students to read on their own. I recommend 2-3 sessions of 15 minutes of read aloud or 20 minutes of independent reading.

Update Word Journals

Students should update their word journals, what some teachers refer to as a “personal dictionary”, with any new words from the book. If this is your students’ first experience using a word journal, you may wish to give them this Google doc to read or read it together as a class, “Creating your personal dictionary.

Select an Agriculture Activity (1 hour)

Garden in a glove lesson plan, found here, is my favorite and it could relate to almost any book on the list. You need:

  • Food prep gloves – 1 for each student – that you can probably get from your school cafeteria,
  • A bag of cotton balls
  • 5 different packs of seeds
  • A marker

Soak the cotton balls in water, put 3-5 seeds in each one and put five cotton balls, each with different seeds, in the five fingers of the glove. Don’t forget to write on each finger what is in it. Create a chart of the germination time for each type of seed. Read the lesson plan for more detail.

If Garden in a Glove doesn’t suit your needs, check More Scrambled States of Agriculture for ideas you might like better.

Ask students to generate hypotheses about how long it will take for the seeds to germinate, whether all the seeds will take the same amount of time (assuming you did Garden in a Glove).

Record your measurements

Students create either :

  • Create 5 line plot showing the number of seeds that germinated for each number of days, one plot for each type of seed, OR
  • Create one line plot with a different color used for each type of seed.

Ask the students whether their hypotheses were supported.


If your students are not familiar with line plots, you may want to have them watch this seven-minute video which explains line plots step by step.

Now that students have watched the video and collected the data, their final task is to create two line plots of their results. Feel free to copy and paste the text below into your Google classroom or other assignment.




Three forms of assessment are included in this assignment.

  • In the personal dictionary or word journal, students are required to include a minimum of five words with definitions for 50 points. Each word, spelled correctly is 2 points and a correct definition is another 8 points. I deduct a point for grammar or spelling errors in the definition, but only one.
  • For the agriculture activity, this is simply pass/ fail marked as completed or not.
  • The line plots are scored based on accuracy. I give 10 points for each plot/ type of seed for a total of 50 points possible and another 10 points each for stating a hypothesis and answering whether or not it has been supported.

Science and language arts with wildflowers


English/ Language Arts

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.6.7 Integrate information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words to develop a coherent understanding of a topic or issue.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.6.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings.

Next Generation Science Standard

MS-LS2-1 Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics: Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for the effects of resource availability on organisms and populations of organisms in an ecosystem.

Mathematics Standard

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.6.SP.A.3 Recognize that a measure of center for a numerical data set summarizes all of its values with a single number.

Technology required

Optionally, the teacher will have access to a printer to print pages 2-3 of the book and selected pages to color. Since choke cherry and Simpson’s Ball Cactus are mentioned in the problems, it is recommended that, at a minimum, these pages should be printed. Alternatively, the link can be shared to students who are learning from home to read material on their computer.


This is a true STREAM lesson. Combining science, reading, art and mathematics. Students read a description of the pine forest ecosystem and life zones. They define any new words in their personal dictionary. Students then use information on plant life to identify life zones and locate these zones in terms of altitude. Students who complete the activity before the allotted class time play a game that teaches fractions and basic statistics.

Time Required

50 minutes

Lesson Plan

Read pages two and three of Wildflowers of Ponderosa Pine Forests Coloring Book – These pages explain the pine forest ecosystem, including an illustration of Life Zones.

Complete word journal

Some teachers call it a personal dictionary, to others it’s a word journal. Regardless, the goal is the same, for students to record new words, give a dictionary definition and “make the word their own”. This can be done by rewriting the definition in their own words, using the word in a sentence or including an illustration of the word.

Two dictionary sites to recommend for definitions are below. An added bonus to mention to students is that they can hear words pronounced.

Since students often ask for an example, here is an example you can link in your lesson.

The personal dictionary assignment, with all links, can be found here. Feel free to copy and paste into your Google classroom or other site, or print out for your class.

Use Life Zones to Solve Problems

Angie and Sam are on their way to Michigan but they have gotten so, so lost! They are somewhere in Colorado. Sam has sent Angie this text:

Hey, Angie! I can’t see you anywhere. All I can see are trees, a whole lot of trees, and if I look up the mountain, I see even more trees, closer together. I recognize this plant with red berries. Grandma called it choke cherry. Where are you? How can I meet you? Should I go up or down?

Angie texts him back,

There aren’t that many trees around me, but there are some of these round cactus plants. We are definitely not in Michigan!

Use the information on life zones to answer these questions. (Hint: You may have to look on the plant pages as well.)

  1. In which of the five life zones is Sam right now? How do you know?
  2. In which of the five life zones is Angie right now? How do you know?
  3. Should Sam go up the mountain or down the mountain to meet up with Angie? Why?

Click here for the life zone assignment as a Google doc.

BONUS 1: Game Play

You might recognize Sam and Angie from the game, Forgotten Trail, where they try to retrace their ancestors’ journey across the U.S. and Canada. If you finish this assignment and your personal dictionary before class time is over, play Forgotten Trail here.

BONUS 2: Art

As an alternate bonus activity, students may color the pictures in the book according to the legend included. This would require that the teacher print pages for students. Since choke cherry and Simpson’s Ball Cactus are mentioned in the problems, it is recommended that, at a minimum, these pages should be printed.


Recommended rubric for the Personal Dictionary is as follows:

This assignment is worth 100 points. A minimum of ten words is required. You can include up to two extra  words for an additional 20 points.

Each word is worth 10 points.

  • Dictionary definition – 3 points
  • Definition in your own words – 5 points
  • Use in a sentence or draw a picture – 2 points

Recommended rubric for Life Zone Questions

Each question is worth 25 points.

Sam is in the Montane zone (5 points). We know this because he sees a lot of trees and the Montane zone is a forested area. He said that there are even more trees up ahead so we know he is not in the subalpine area because above that are no trees (10 points). He also saw choke cherry plants and these are at elevation from 7,000 – 9,000 feet. The Montane zone starts at 8,000 feet. (10 points)

Angie is in the Foothills (5 points). We know this because she says there are not many trees (10 points) and she sees the Simpson’s Ball Cactus which is common in the Foothills (10 points).

Sam should go down the mountain to meet Angie (5 points) because Sam is in the Montane zone, which is at 8,000 to 10,000 feet (10 points) and she is in the Foothills which is at (6,000 to 8,000 feet) so he needs to go down in altitude to meet her (10 points).

Assessment for Forgotten Trail math problems

Problems are scored automatically within the game. Teachers who are part of the Growing Math project or with 7 Generation Games site license can access student data from the Reports page.