Growing Almonds: Fact or Opinion (2023)

Lesson Plan

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Growing Almonds: Fact or Opinion

Grade Level

3 - 5


Students investigatethe process of getting almonds from farm to table and distinguish the difference between facts and opinions as they explore about each stage and season of almond growth.Grades 3-5

Estimated Time

Two 50-minute lessons plus additional time for writing

Materials Needed
  • KWL Chart Paper
  • An Almond Storyvideo
  • The Almond Board of California’s slide show,Almond Life Cycle
  • An Almond Storyactivity book, page 12: a Busy Little Almond
  • Factual Frank and Opinion Opie worksheet

dormant: not active but able to become active

hull: the protective outer covering of a fruit or seed

orchard: a place where fruit or tree nuts are grown

pollinate: to carry pollen from the anther to the stigma of a flower

Did You Know?
  • Almonds like hot summers and cool winters to grow.1
  • Almonds only grow if bees pollinate the blossoms in the spring.1
  • Almonds can be eaten whole, sliced, slivered, as flour, milk, butter, or oil.2
  • Each fruit of the almond tree has 3 parts, which are all used. The hull is fed to livestock, the shell is used for livestock bedding, and the kernel is what we eat.3
Background Agricultural Connections

This lesson plan is part of a five-lesson seriesfor grades 3-5 which teaches about agriculture by focusing on all aspects of the almond industry. Students will learn about the people involved in growing almonds, development of almond trees and nuts, almond processing, different uses of almonds, almond history and nutritional information. Almonds are an important commodity in California agriculture. Approximately 6,800 growers located throughout the Central Valley of California produce close to two billion pounds of almonds each year. California produces more than 80% of the world’s almonds and virtually 100% of the domestic supply.

Producing almonds is a year-long process. Almond growers pay special attention to the almond trees in their orchard to make sure they are thriving all year long. Almond trees begin their cycle in a dormant state, which usually lasts from November to February. Once spring arrives, the almond trees burst into bloom and the bees come to pollinate. From March to June, the almond kernel is developing and hardening. In July, once the kernel has grown to its full potential, it goes into the hullsplit phase where the outside hull (the soft, pliable protective layer) splits open. In late summer, the almond trees are harvested and the almonds are transported to the processing plant, where the almonds later get shipped around the world.

Who grows almonds?

The almond industry is driven by family farmers. More than 91% of almond farms are family farms – many operated by third and fourth generation farmers who plan to pass down their land and way of life to their children and grandchildren. Having lived – and often grown up – on the land, they understand the importance of managing their orchards and natural resources responsibly for current and future generations.4

What irrigation do almond growers use?

83% of almond growers practice demand-based irrigation, tracking items like soil moisture, tree water status or weather conditions to determine when to irrigate their orchards rather than watering on a predetermined schedule. 70% of almond orchards use micro irrigation systems (think mini-sprinklers for the trees), decreasing water runoff, putting water directly in the root zone and allowing for precise timing and rate of irrigation. 62% of growers use soil maps while designing their irrigation systems to best match the soil characteristics of their orchards for optimal water infiltration and distribution.5

Do almonds use more water than other crops?

The fact is most fruit and nut trees in California use about the same amounts of water.6But what’s extraordinary is what almond growers in California are doing to increase water efficiency. They were early adopters of water-saving micro-irrigation and other technologies that have helped reduce the amount of water it takes to grow a pound of almonds by 33% since 1994.7

What other products come from almond trees?

Almond trees, and the water used to grow them, actually produce three products, two of which are foods. Shells are used as an alternate energy source in co-generation plants and as livestock bedding. The hull is the dry and fuzzy fruit that protects the almond when it’s growing. Hulls are sold as livestock feed, which reduces the amount of water used to grow other feed crops. The kernel is the nutrient-rich almond we eat.4

  1. Tell your students that you will be giving them a list of clues to introduce the topic of the lesson. Instruct students to raise their hand when they think they know what it is. Give the following clues:
    • It is a food you can eat.
    • It grows on a farm in a place called an orchard.
    • It grows on a tree.
    • Without bees, this food would not grow.
    • The entire domestic (within the United States) supply of this food is grown in the state of California.
    • While growing on the tree, this food has an outer shell called a hull. (display picture)
    • Inside the hull, you will find a shell. (display picture)
    • Inside the shell, what will you find? (an almond!)
  2. Inform students that theywill be learning about the process of growing almonds and the steps it takes to get them from the farm to our dinner tables.
Explore and Explain
  1. Discuss what students already know about almonds and what they want to know. Write answers on the KWL chart.
  2. Watch the Almond Storyvideo. Add new information to the KWL chart.

  3. Show the Almond Life Cycleslides on the Almond Board of California’s website
    1. November through February, almond trees go through a period of dormancy that allows them to store nutrients.
    2. Between February and early March almond trees begin to bloom. Different varieties bloom at different times.
    3. Most almond trees need pollination so bees are brought to the orchard to carry pollen and pollinate the almond blossoms, which is the first start to crop development.
    4. From March to June, almonds grow and mature, with the outer shell (hull) hardening and the kernel developing.
    5. During July and August, the hulls begin to split which allows the almond shell to begin to dry. Right before harvest the hull opens completely.
    6. From August to October, harvest begins. Harvest equipment called shakers come into the orchard and clamp the trunk of the trees. They shake the tree vigorously (for 3-4 seconds) and the almonds fall to the ground. The almonds stay on the ground for a little over a week and then are swept into rows by another piece of equipment called a sweeper.
      • Optional: Students saw a shaker in the Almond Story video, but you may also show them an additional videoof a shaker machine at work.

    7. Next, almonds are picked up by a harvester, transferred into a trailer and hauled to a huller/sheller facility where they go onto a conveyer belt and the hull and shell are separated from the almond kernels. The almonds are also separated out according to size.
    8. After hulling and separating, almonds are stored until they are shipped or processed further.
  4. As a class, have students read and complete page 12, a Busy Little Almond, in their activity books.Add to KWL chart.
  5. Discuss or review the meaning of fact and opinion. A fact is a statement that is true and can be proven. An opinion is a statement based on a belief or how someone feels and can’t be proven. Have students practice by using the Factual Frank and Opinion Opie worksheet. Have students complete the page and discuss.
  6. Clarify what students have learned about almonds so far. Add to “learned” column of KWL chart.
  7. Have students write an opinion or informative essay on almonds. Students may focus on harvest or another area from their almond activity book. Student papers should have an introduction, include reasons or facts, include linking words and domain specific vocabulary, as well as have a conclusion. Have students present their paper.
    • View the Almond Harvesting: Shaking, Sweeping, Harvesting & Stock Piling and Almond Processing: Pre-Cleaning, Hulling/Shelling & Processing videos to learn more about almond harvesting and processing.

    • Record student or group presentations and watch as a class. Have students give feedback on the presentations.

    • Have student groups make posters about almond harvest. Students should illustrate their posters. Have students present their posters. Display posters in your classroom.

    • Have students create a Fact or Opinion class quiz.

    • Have students read and complete pages 11 and 20, People in the Almond Industry and Nuts about Recycling in their Almond Story activity book. After students finish, ask them to re-read the pages, this time looking for fact and opinion. Students should find and underline fact or opinion statements on the activity book pages and discuss with a partner.

    • For a lesson teaching further about the importance of bees and pollination, see Honey Bees: A Pollination Simulation.


    After conducting these activities, review and summarize the following key concepts:

    • Nearly all almonds consumed in the United States were grown in California. In addition, California exports a large quantity of almonds to other countries throughout the world.
    • California grows a large quantity of almonds because the climate (weather) is ideal for almond growth. Almond trees prefer cool winters and hot summers.
    • Almonds grow on trees. They begin their development in the spring when bees pollinate almond blossoms to allow them togrow through the spring and summer until they are harvested.
    • Almonds can be eaten fresh or turned into almond butter, milk, or flour.
    4. United States Department of Agriculture, 2012 Census of Agriculture: Subject Series, Typology, Table 6.
    5. California Almond Sustainability Program.
    6. California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Irrigation Training and Research Center. ITRC Report No. 03-001: California Crop and Soil Evapotranspiration. ETc Tables 1-13. January 2003.
    7. University of California, 2010. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2012 Almond Board of California, 1990-94, 2000-14.
    • Original Development Team: Laceyanne Sullivan Chojnacki and Jennifer Dickey
    • Executive Director: Judy Culbertson
    • Layout and Design: Nina Danner, Lyn Hyatt, and Jennifer Ray

    The original concept for California Almonds: An Almond Story was developed by participants in the Almond Board of California’s Almond Leadership Program. The lesson plans were further developed by California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom with support from the Almond Board of California.

    Recommended Companion Resources
    • An Almond Story
    • Fun with Almond Math
    • Harvest Year
    • NMSU Field Trip: Honey
    • The Beeman
    • The Honey Files
    • The Life and Times of the Honeybee
    • When the Bees Fly Home

    Rebecca Bailey, Mary Pat Jones, Jenny Nicolau, and DeAnn Tenhunfeld


    California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom

    We welcome your feedback. Please take a minute to share your thoughts on this lesson.
    Agricultural Literacy Outcomes
    Agriculture and the Environment
    • Explain how the interaction of the sun, soil, water, and weather in plant and animal growth impacts agricultural production (T1.3-5.b)
    Culture, Society, Economy & Geography
    • Provide examples of agricultural products available, but not produced in their local area and state (T5.3-5.e)
    Food, Health, and Lifestyle
    • Diagram the path of production for a processed product, from farm to table (T3.3-5.b)
    Education Content Standards
    Science (SCIENCE)

    3-LS1: From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes

    • 3-LS1-1 Develop models to describe that organisms have unique and diverse life cycles but all have in common birth, growth, reproduction, and death.

    4-LS1: From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes

    • 4-LS1-1 Construct an argument that plants and animals have internal and external structures that function to support survival, growth, behavior, and reproduction.
    Common Core Connections
    Anchor Standards: Reading

    CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.4 Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.

    Anchor Standards: Speaking and Listening

    CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.3 Evaluate a speaker’s point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric.

    CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

    Anchor Standards: Writing

    CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.1 Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

    CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.

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