12 Days of Agriculture Activities!
We’re celebrating this year’s holiday season with 12 days of agriculture activities. The 12 days will include entertaining lessons that teach the whole family about agriculture.
One new activity will be posted on our Facebook page @LinnCoAg for 12 days leading up to Christmas. Participate in our fun challenge to learn how ag is integrated into our everyday lives.
Most supplies can be found at home! The challenge will begin December 14th and conclude Christmas day, December 25th.
Activities will be a fun combination of STEM experiments, baking, crafts and virtual storytelling. Continue reading to view all 12 days.
Day 1: Sugar Cookies/STEM
Merry Christmas, everyone! Today is our final day of holiday agriculture activities and the theme today is Sugar Cookie STEM experiments! There will be a cookie recipe linked at the bottom of today’s article but, before that is a few different experiments you can do with the cookie ingredients!
Flour is a key ingredient when making cookies. It holds all of the ingredients together and makes the dough not so sticky. Flour begins as a wheat plant and is then harvested. The wheat harvester plucks the outer shell from the wheat plant and grinds the inside of the plant, the seed, into a powder. This powder is flour. After the wheat grains turn into flour, proteins are also created in it, creating gluten. There are lots of flour substitutes that have been created for those with gluten allergies. These substitutes have a wide range and are made from things like coconut, almond, oat, and more. A fun STEM experiment you could do is exploring different flour types and the gluten content in them. Here is the link to learn more about it!
Another essential ingredient is sugar. Sugar, as we have discussed in previous days, comes from either sugarcane or sugar beet. Many people think sugarcane is the main producer of sugar, but sugar beets actually have a higher production percentage. Sugar beets grow in the ground in a way similar to potatoes. After they’re fully grown, the beets are harvested. To harvest, the top of the beets are first chopped off by the harvester, then the harvester is sent through again to pull the beets from the ground. After harvest, the beets are sent to a factory where they are washed and soaked. The sugar particles are removed from the beet during the soaking process. The sugary juice substance is then heated to create a concentrated syrup. The syrup is finally crystallized to create sugar. The STEM experiment connected to this ingredient goes over how sugar reacts to heat. This activity teaches the family about chemical reactions that can occur in everyday foods. You can find the instructions and materials list here.
The final ingredient we will be discussing in this article is butter. Butter comes from milk which comes from dairy cows on a farm. It begins where cows are milked using a vacuum-like machine that sends the milk to a large refrigerated vat. Once cool enough and pasteurized, the milk is churned by being shaken. This process separates the fat from the milk. Next, salt and food coloring can be added to the butter. The STEM experiment connected to butter teaches more about how butter is made and how certain factors affect the outcome of the product. Learn more about this experiment at this link.
You can find this simple sugar cookie recipe here. This is a great activity that makes delicious cookies while bonding with the whole family on this Christmas day! We hope you have a safe and happy holiday. Merry Christmas!
Day 2: Christmas Tree Comparison
It’s Christmas Eve! By now, your whole family is probably anxiously waiting around the Christmas tree! While everyone can hardly contain their excitement, here are a few fun facts about Christmas trees around the world that you can share while waiting.
In America, it’s most popular during the holiday season to use either real or artificial Christmas trees, decorating them with lights, ornaments, tinsel, and ribbon. Stockings are typically hung on fireplaces or staircases and presents are tucked under the trees. While this is extremely well known in the United States, this isn’t the only way holidays are celebrated across the world.
In China, Christmas isn’t a national holiday as there are few Christians. However, there is still a large number of people who do. Christmas trees are fairly unpopular, despite China being the number one producer of artificial Christmas trees. The Christmas trees are also called Trees of Light. These trees are decorated with paper lanterns, flowers, and red paper chains. Gifts are not given out on Christmas, instead, apples are! Apple sounds similar to peace in Chinese, leading to the tradition of apples being passed out on Christmas eve, signifying peace. Sometimes small children are given presents when they go to see Santa Clause, but they don’t have to wait until Christmas day to open them.
In Russia, Christmas isn’t celebrated until January 7th! This is due to most Russian Orthodox Churches using the old Julian calendar for religious holidays. Some Christians do celebrate on December 25th, as well, but also on January 7th. Having a “Christmas” tree is fairly uncommon. Instead, they are called New Year trees. On New Year’s Eve, ‘Father Frost’ (also known as Santa Claus) delivers presents with his snow maiden granddaughter under the tree.
Italian Christmas lasts more than a single day, but a whole month. Christmas begins in early December and lasts until January 6th. Christmas trees are decorated on December 8th when the father set up the tree (which is likely artificial), the mother sets up the lights, and the children hang the ornaments. The youngest child in the house puts the topper on the tree which is usually a star, an angel, or Jesus in his cradle. An ongoing tradition in Italy is to hang tangerines onto the tree that can’t be eaten until December 25th. Father Christmas is beginning to gain more popularity in Italy, but La Befana, an old woman, is the most well-known Italian Christmas figure who delivers presents on January 6th.
These are just some of the many Christmas traditions across the world. Each country and home is unique in its decorations, trees, feasts, and heritage. Despite all of the special and different qualities, all homes have one thing in common during the holiday season: spending it with loved ones. We hope you have a wonderful Christmas eve with your family and can’t wait to share the final 12 Days of Christmas activity with you tomorrow!
Day 3: Reindeer Farms
Everyone knows the most important thing on Christmas Eve is Rudolph and his reindeer friends! Did you know there’s actually reindeer farms where people can meet and see real reindeer? Of course, these aren’t Santa’s reindeer, but they look just like them.
Reindeer are also called Caribou. Typically, a caribou is referred to as a wild reindeer and reindeers are domesticated. They like to live in cold climates like the Arctic, North Pole, and Canada. Because they love the cold, they migrate towards the North at the end of the summer. Once the first snow falls, they head back South, sometimes migrating over 600 miles! Unlike deer from Iowa, both male and female reindeers have antlers but the males shed their antlers in the winter, women do not. When reindeer are domesticated, they can live up to 20 years! There aren’t many wild caribou in the United States, but there are a few reindeer farms!
There are plenty of reindeer farms across America like in Alaska, Montana, Illinois, and even Iowa! Reindeer are especially popular around the Christmas season, so it’s common to find a few reindeer at light shows or Christmas farms! There’s even a set of reindeer at a local Christmas tree farm in Ankeny, Iowa. It’s amazing to see how different reindeer are compared to the deer we see in Iowa everyday! This species is huge, furry, and has large antlers. It’s no wonder Santa chose such magical creatures to guide his sleigh!
Here’s a couple links of where you and your family can find reindeer around Iowa! We hope you get to see these beautiful animals and maybe even see a couple of Rudolph’s relatives!
2 Jo’s Farms - Van Horne, Iowa
Rent-A-Reindeer - Garden Grove, Iowa
My Christmas Tree Farm - Ankeny, Iowa
Rotary Lights - La Crosse, Wisconsin
Day 4: Scavenger Hunt
Christmas is just around the corner and today’s activity will put everyone in the holiday spirit! This hands-on activity is fun for all ages and will leave memories that last forever. This scavenger hunt has five holiday and agriculture related clues, no treasure at the end is necessary, this hunt ends with a holiday movie of your choosing! Here’s the list of clues with the answers below. More explanation of each clue and the process will be added after:
Where the ornaments are hung with care, your next clue will be waiting there!
A carrot nose and two button eyes, when enough snow falls you can build me outside!
After that cold clue, you could use a hot drink. Chocolatey with marshmallows, a delicious holiday sweet!
This clue is by Santa’s favorite thing to eat, hurry over to the yummiest Christmas treat!
We wish you a holiday full of greenery and cheer, your last stop is where you can watch Christmas movies all year!
All of these clues are linked to one of the activities we have done so far! We have learned about Christmas trees and how they grow, how snow is made, and where hot cocoa and sugar cookies come from. End this exciting scavenger hunt with a Christmas movie the whole family can enjoy! At the end of today's article, there's another scavenger hunt option linked! This one doesn't have clues, but has a Christmas checklist where you have to find each holiday item somewhere around the house. Check out our previous days activities and crafts if you haven’t seen them yet.
Scavenger Hunt Option 2: https://www.thecrazyoutdoormama.com/12-fun-christmas-scavenger-hunt-printables-outdoors-indoors-and-clues/
Day 5: Christmas Corn Paint
Today’s agriculture activity is making Christmas corn paint! This simple and fun craft only requires:
Red & Green Food Coloring
Q-Tips or Paint Brushes
Start off by adding your desired amount of cornstarch into a bowl or cup. Add small amounts of whole milk into your cornstarch and slowly mix in. Once it’s reached a paint-like consistency, add a few drops of food coloring and your paint is ready! A few coloring Christmas sheet options are attached to the end of this article to use your paint on!
This super easy paint recipe can be made with ingredients from your kitchen that could possibly come from local farms! Cornstarch is made from a fine, white powder located in the center area of a corn kernel. Iowa is the number one corn producer in the United States and with hundreds of thousands of Iowan farms, there’s no doubt that cornstarch or bottle of milk could’ve came from a local farm!
We hope your family enjoys this fun activity! You can view a few different coloring sheet options to use with your paint here: http://www.freefunchristmas.com/christmas-coloring-pages/
We would also love to see pictures of you participating in our 12 Days of Christmas: Agriculture Activities, email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Day 6: Hot Cocoa
On cold, December days like these, what could make the day cozier than a hot cup of cocoa! This delicious treat was created in 1755 to warm people up during cold weather. Ever since, this tasty drink has been a hit during the snowy season! Hot cocoa is made from cocoa powder, sugar, and milk or water! Cocoa powder is made from crushed cacao beans, sugar, and cocoa butter. Sugar is made from sugar beets or sugarcane and milk is made from dairy milk, water, and minerals.
Cocoa powder wasn’t made until the 1800s, but cacao beans were supposedly discovered when Christopher Columbus came to America. He brought the beans back to Spain, where they began to make tasty new treats. People used these beans in a fine powder form to make hot cocoa with warm water or milk. There was a variety of other ingredients involved as well such as chili peppers and cornmeal, which are no longer present in our hot chocolate drinks today.
This drink is often paired with marshmallows of all sizes. Marshmallows have been around since 2000 B.C.! They were originally made by Egyptians from mallow plant sap, nuts, and honey! Today, this snack is made from corn syrup, cornstarch, sugar, water, and gelatin. We no longer use the mallow plant to make marshmallows and the recipe has come a long way since 2000 B.C.! Marshmallows make the perfect topping for a delicious hot cup of cocoa.
This drink is super simple to make at home with only three ingredients:
2 cups of powdered sugar
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups powder milk
Mix these together in a large bowl, add to a mug and stir in warm milk or water to finish this recipe and top it with some sweet marshmallows or whip cream! Stay tuned for tomorrow’s activity, where you can learn how to make corn paint and the history of cornstarch.
Day 7: Homemade Snow
The only thing that can make the holiday season more magical is having a white Christmas! Today’s agriculture activity is all about snow! We have a fun craft you can make in minutes with only two ingredients! In order to make this homemade snow, you will need:
Shaving Cream or Conditioner
Pour as much of the baking soda in that you desire and add small amounts of the shaving cream or conditioner. Knead the ingredients together and repeat until you reach the consistency of snow. Now that you have your snow, you can make snowballs, mini snowmen, or just dig and play! This activity is fun for all ages and brings the magic of a white Christmas into your kitchen.
We learned about snowflakes a few days ago, but did you know snowflakes aren’t the only form of snow? There’s also sleet and graupel (or snow pellets). Sleet is raindrops that freeze into small, translucent balls of ice. Graupel is cloud particles that are colder than the freezing point of water but still remain liquid. Also, snow is actually colorless, not white! Because it is translucent, light can’t pass through it easily, giving a white appearance. Deep snow can also appear blue due to the absorbance of red light, causing the reflection of blue light.
We hope you enjoy this fun snow activity and get the white Christmas of your dreams! We would love to see pictures of your participation in this craft, you can email them to email@example.com. Happy holidays!
Day 8: Floating Cranberries
One of the most popular holiday side dishes in America is cranberry sauce, but there’s so much more you can do with cranberries! Today’s activity will revolve around cranberries with a few fun experiment choices.
Cranberries are considered a super fruit due to their many benefits! Cranberries have high vitamin levels, high fiber, low calories antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, and anti-cancer health benefits that come with consumption. They’re also one of the fruits with the lowest sugar! Most people think of cranberries as the way they’re pictured in commercials like Ocean Spray’s Cranberry Juice Cocktail, where the berries are floating in water. Not many people know that that’s actually what cranberries look like during harvest, they don’t really grow in water. Cranberries grow on low-lying vines in bogs with acidic, peaty soil. They grow from April to November where they are then harvested with either dry or harvest. Dry-harvesting is used with a mechanical picker and is much better to pick fresh fruit than with wet-harvest. Dry-harvest only gets about one-third of the crop and the remaining crop is normally picked up by the wet-harvest. The Ocean Spray commercial shows wet-harvest, mostly used for juice or dried cranberries. It’s a much easier process than dry-harvesting and gets more of the crop. The bog is flooded the night before harvest with around eighteen inches of water. The water is churned with reels, loosening the cranberries and then using a net to collect the berries. But how do the cranberries get to the top of the water?
For this holiday activity, you will need:
A cup of water
Cranberries (not dried)
Put the cranberries into the cup of water and watch as they float to the top! After noticing what happens in the experiment, ask the family how this is possible. Following this discussion, cut open the cranberry and see the four air pockets inside of the cranberry. These pockets allow the cranberries to float to the surface of the water, like they do in wet-harvest. Another fun activity you could do with your leftover cranberries involves cranberries and Sprite!
Use another cup and dump in your lemon lime soda (Sprite and 7Up work well!). Slowly add the cranberries and watch as they dance! The carbon dioxide bubbles from the soda carries the cranberries to the top of the cup, where they then pop and the cranberries sink. As the cranberries and soda continue to go through this process, it looks like the berries are dancing!
Day 9: Snowflakes
One of the things that make the holiday season so special is snow! Today’s activity will be learning about snowflakes! This activity needs glue, salt, water, paper, and food coloring or watercolors.
Step 1: Lay out a piece of paper and use glue to draw out a snowflake shape.
Step 2: Pour salt onto the glue, dump off the excess salt once there’s enough on your glue.
Step 3: Once the glue has dried, mix a few tablespoons of water and blue food coloring.
Step 4: Slowly drip the colored water or watercolors onto the salt snowflakes (pipettes work great for this step). Do it one drop at a time, try not to drown the snowflake pattern!
Step 5: The water will be absorbed by the salt and move throughout the pattern shape. Mix other colors if you wish, but allow the snowflakes to dry overnight.
Now that you’ve made your snowflake craft, let’s learn a little bit more about snowflakes! Each snowflake is unique, no two snowflakes are the same. All snowflakes have six sides, a unique pattern, and have approximately 200 snow crystals on them! Snowflakes are made in the sky when a water droplet freezes onto a dust or pollen particle, making an ice crystal. As the ice crystal falls from the sky, the water vapor freezes onto it, creating new crystal arms and making the full six arms of the snowflake. Snowflakes are also always symmetrical thanks to the ice crystals that make them. Snowflakes can only be formed when it is around 23 degrees Fahrenheit. When the temperature is even colder, the snowflakes grow little needles, hexagonal prisms, and hollow columns. In even colder temperatures, the snowflakes grow larger and can eventually turn to prisms and flat plates at frigid temperatures. Overall, there are six main types of snowflakes: flat, column, stars, dendrite, lacy, needle, and capped column. What kind does your snowflake look like?
Day 10: Homemade Ornaments
Today’s agriculture holiday activity is a keepsake that will last for years! These homemade cinnamon ornaments can be made with two simple ingredients and the whole family can decorate them. All you need for this beautiful craft is:
1 cup applesauce
5 oz cinnamon
Mix the two ingredients into a large bowl with a fork until the mixture turns crumbly. Knead the mixture into a ball and add more applesauce by the tablespoon if it remains crumbly until the dough turns soft. Then, roll the dough onto parchment paper and cut out whatever ornament shapes you wish. Cookie cutters work great for making fun shapes!
After you have all of your ornaments cut out, poke a hole at the top of the shapes for a string or ribbon to be brought through after baking. Bake for two hours at 200 degrees or until the dough is completely dried. Flip the ornaments once while baking to ensure they’re dry on all sides.
Finally, decorate the ornaments after they’ve cooled with paint, glitter, buttons, sharpies, or any other coloring or decorating utensils you wish!
This fun craft is made from ingredients that can be found in your kitchen. But before they were in your cupboards, these ingredients came from a farm. Cinnamon is a spice that comes from the bark of several tree species that are called Cinnamomum. Farmers shave the inner bark off of the trees and dry it, where it then curls and is cut into sticks or crushed into a powder. Applesauce is made from apples, which comes from many different apple trees and makes a super easy snack that can be made at home!
This is just one of the many ways to make homemade Christmas ornaments that last for years and leave memories forever. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s agriculture Christmas activity. Follow our Facebook page for notifications on the newest posts.
Day 11: Discovering Christmas Trees
It’s our second day of holiday fun activities! Today’s agriculture lesson is discovering Christmas trees! Christmas trees are typically pine, fir, spruce, or other species. While these trees may look similar, they have some drastic differences that are best seen in the tree’s needles.
Pine needles grow in pairs on branches and are bundled together. Pine trees also have pine cones, which hang down from the twigs on the tree. Fir needles are individually connected to the branch. These needles are much softer and flat. Fir cones grow upwards, directed towards the top of the tree. Spruce needles, like fir, connect individually to the branches. This needle type is much more sharp and square than both pine and fir. If you have a real Christmas tree, look at the needles on the branch to try and find out what kind of tree you have. If you don’t have a real tree this holiday, look outside for one of these styles of tree and take your best guess at the species type!
Christmas trees grow on farms, like other agricultural crops, and can take 6 - 10 years to grow! It’s extremely popular to decorate homes around the holidays with trees, garland, and other forms of evergreen. This began thousands of years ago, when the belief began that evergreens would keep away evil spirits and illnesses. Winter solstice, which is the shortest day and longest night of the year, often falls on December 21 or 22. In ancient times, people used to celebrate this special day by using boughs of evergreen to remind them that green plants will grow again in the summer and to honor their sun god who would begin to heal, creating longer days. This was celebrated in many different forms in Egypt, Romania, Germany, and many other places. Germans actually began the Christmas tree tradition, which Americas considered odd in the beginning. German settlers were the ones who began this tradition in America in the 1840s. By the 1890s, Christmas tree popularity began to skyrocket and homes were decorated across the country with ornaments, lights, trees, and other traditional Christmas decor.
Christmas without a tree to put our presents under seems so bizzare now, it brings a whole new look at the idea of Christmas. Visit River Bend Ag in the Classroom Facebook page to watch a local Christmas tree FarmChat @RiverBendAITC