Food Detectives

Science Activity

Students do research to locate and display on a resource map the regions in which particular grains are grown.



  1. Bring to class (and/or ask students to do so) clean, empty packaging from prepared foods that are popular with students, such as frozen items, breakfast foods, breads, and pastries.
  2. Divide class into teams. Distribute the packaging so that every team has one and there is no duplication (that is, each team is responsible for a different grain).
  3. Help students identify which ingredients are grains. On the chalkboard, list the grains the groups identify, for example, wheat, rice, corn, barley, rye, oats, and buckwheat. Assign a symbol (or, if you're using push-pins, a color) for each grain.
  4. Have students follow these steps:

  5. Gradually expand the scope of the activity to other parts of the world, beginning first with Canada, then moving to the southern hemisphere, Europe, Asia, and so forth.

  6. Encourage students to notice any patterns, such as parts of the world where certain grains are more frequently grown than in others.


With students, locate your city or town and mark it. Ask teams to measure the distances (again starting with the United States) between the source and their own homes. Ask students to decide which regions are the farthest, which the closest.

Encourage students to compare their resource map with a climate map and draw conclusions about what climate is best for each grain. Extend the comparision by using a physical map and having students note the landforms in each region.

Have students read other packaging to learn about other products containing the grain they tracked. Teams prepare charts showing those products. They can draw pictures of the products or attach clean packaging to poster board.

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