Skip to main content

Oklahoma Agriculture in the Classroom



September is Whole Grains Month and Time to Plant Winter Wheat

Bread Crops Image Credit: Adam Ellis, Buzz Feed
Harvesting - Crops and Careers
Lessons for grades K-12, with video footage from award-winning documentary, The Great American Wheat Harvest

Plant a School Yard Plot of Wheat

Oklahoma farmers start planting winter wheat this month. As a class plant a plot of wheat to harvest at the end of the school year.

  • Students use the Scientific Study Format to design their experiment.
  • Prepare a bed like you would any flower bed.
  • Students scatter the wheat and water it.
  • Students observe the wheat growing and record their observations in a journal.
  • Students leave the wheat alone during the winter and start watering again in the spring.
  • Students may also grow wheat in pots in a sunny window.
  • Students keep the pots of wheat watered and cut it back occasionally with scissors.
  • Students may also use wheat instead of grass seed on their Dirt Babies.

Wheat planted in the fall can also serve as a cover crop for your classroom garden. After harvesting the wheat in spring, leave the stubble, making sure you don't leave seeds. The stubble will decompose and provide nourishment for the soil while keeping weeds out.

For information about getting wheat seeds, check with your local grain elevator or feed store or contact your local OSU Extension office. Wheat seeds are also available at health food stores or in the health food section of your grocery store, marketed as wheat berries.

Cradling Wheat Cradling Wheat, 1938 by Thomas Hart Benton

Until I moved to western South Dakota, I did not know about the rain, that it could come too hard, too soft, too hot, too cold, too early, too late. That there could be too little at the right time, too much at the wrong time, and vice versa.

I did not know that a light rain coming at the end of a hot afternoon, with the temperature at 100 degrees or more, can literally burn wheat, streaming it on the stalk so it's not worth harvesting.

I had not seen a long, slow rain come at harvest, making grain lying in the swath begin to sprout again, ruining it as a cash crop...

I had not seen the whimsy of wind, rain, and hail; a path in a wheatfield as if a drunken giant had stumbled through, leaving footprints here and there. I had not seen hail fall from a clear blue sky. I had not tasted horizontal rain, flung by powerful winds.

I had not realized that a long, soaking rain in spring or fall, a straight-down-falling rain, a gentle, splashing rain is more than a blessing. It's a miracle.

An old farmer once asked my husband and me how long we'd been in the country. 'Five years,' we answered. 'Well, then,' he said, 'you've seen rain.'

- Kathleen Norris, from Dakota: A Spiritual Geography

Norris is writing about South Dakota, but she could be writing about Oklahoma wheat fields. Challenge students to find South Dakota on a map of the US and discuss why the weather there might be similar to ours. (Both states are located in the Great Plains. Extreme weather is typical of the Great Plains.) How is it different? (South Dakota is typically colder in the winter.) Wheat is also a major crop in South Dakota, as it is in Oklahoma.

Discussion Questions
  • What is the central idea in this passage? What are the supporting details?
  • Identify figurative language used in the passage and discuss their meaning
  • Explain how the narrator's point of view influences how events are described.
Red Dirt Groundbreaker
Joseph Danne
Joseph Danne was a self-taught plant geneticist who developed a variety of wheat well-suited to Oklahoma and the Southern Plains. The son of German immigrant parents, Danne moved to Kingfisher County in 1893. He received eight years of formal education before purchasing a farm in Beckham County at age 23. He studied the inheritance laws of Gregor Mendel and conducted genetic research, combining different strains of wheat to create new genetic hybrids.
The result was Triumph Wheat, a 13-year research project conducted between Sweetwater and Sayre in Beckham County. In 1924 and 1925 he combined two locally-grown selections from Turkey wheat with a lesser-known white wheat type from Australia. This produced a rare hybrid uniquely adapted to Oklahoma's growing conditions. It had shorter and stronger straw to withstand prairie winds and it matured early enough to escape Oklahoma's hot summers. It also had milling and baking characteristics that were favored by the milling and baking industries. Triumph was released in 1940. It was the first widely-grown wheat born in and bred for the southern Great Plains.
Finch, Mary, and Elisabeth, Bell, Little Red Hen and the Ear of Wheat, Barefoot, 2001 (Grades PreK-1)
A rooster and a mouse live with the little red hen and lazily refuse to help do the chores necessary to turn a grain of wheat into a loaf of bread. When, in turn, the little red hen won't share the fruits of her solitary labor, the shirkers learn their lesson and, in this story, get a second chance. Next time the hen finds a grain of wheat, both rooster and mouse are there to help and to enjoy the delicious reward.
Hesser, Leon, The Man Who Fed the World: Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Norman Borlaug and His Battle to End World Hunger, Durban House, 2006 (Grades 6 and up)
Landau, Elaine, Wheat, Scholastic, 2000. (Grades 3-5)
The history, cultivation, and uses of wheat - from the True Book Series
Levensen, George, Wheat Comes to Life: A Garden of Wheat and a Loaf to Eat, Tenspeed, 2004. (Grades PreK-2)
Beginning with a patch of wheatgrass in his backyard, the author takes readers on a tour of bread made from scratch. He makes numerous stops along the way - a thresher, a grinder, a doughy combination of flour, water, yeast and oil - before reaching the final destination: a freshly-baked loaf of whole wheat bread.