July is National Blueberry Month! The tribute dates back to May 1999 when the United States Department of Agriculture decided to recognize the states that produce blueberries. Currently, thirty-eight states are producing blueberries, which in turn are producing 90% of the berries world-wide. The blueberry is one of the few fruit plants that is native to North America and maintains a long history, including Native American traditions. Native Americans consumed the berry and its plant parts as food, in addition to using them medicinally. Thus, the folklore surrounding the blueberry and its benefits were passed along to the pilgrims settling in North America during the seventeenth century. Today, blueberry production is a successful agricultural industry, and the health benefits of this fruit are well known. National Blueberry Month is celebrated with festivals and U-pick farm celebrations throughout the United States. Gathering information and learning about this popular fruit can create interesting lessons and studies in many content areas throughout the school year.
Language Arts and Social Studies Connections
As the central focus of a cross-curricular unit of study, information regarding the blueberry’s agricultural history and early utilization contains learning objectives for both language arts and social studies. Researching the Native American traditions, such as the Wampanoag's and how their knowledge was passed on to the pilgrims at the Plymouth settlement, can be a part of a traditional Thanksgiving research project. It is interesting to discover how the blueberry played a part in the pilgrims’ survival. The facts and information gathered during this research project can be organized and composed into an essay or visual presentations.
To begin the project, students are placed into groups to read and research historical uses of the blueberry. This can be a directed, preliminary, fact-collection exercise where they can visit predetermined websites. Using these facts, each group can create questions to narrow their research on one aspect of the history and folklore. Once each group chooses their question(s) to research, data is collected to create an answer that is later organized into individual essays. Maps and other pictures related to place and time researched can be included as a visual representation.
Math and Science Connections
In addition to researching the history of the blueberry, the current agricultural industry and growing conditions can be explored. Use findings as the basis for a real-world focus for math and science learning objectives. For instance, graph data on current blueberry production in North America. Learners will discover that the growth of the blueberry plant and its berry production require a specific habitat and soil condition. In some areas of the country, this affects production as well as the various types of blueberry plants grown in different parts of the country.
Again, this project lends itself to group data collection and analysis. As groups or individuals, pupils gather information on plant life and the growing conditions that support blueberry plants. The data they gather can be recorded in a learning log that can either be composed into an essay, or illustrated into charts that depict specific plants types and growing conditions. Information to be collected for graphing purposes can include, but are not limited to:
- The regions of North America and plant types grown
- The regions of North America and berry production
- Plant types grown and berry production
National Blueberry Month recognizes of one of North America’s native plants and its agricultural success. From researching folklore to creating a graph, learning about the blueberry is a worthwhile topic that can ease its way into any content area.
More Lesson Ideas and Related Activities:
4-H Food Science Intermediate Activity
This is a worksheet activity that helps learners begin an agricultural study. Appreciation of both agriculture and related career choices can be gleaned from this activity.
Horticulture and Gardening
Here is an activity packet where pupils answer 50 questions that help them learn about seeds and plants. Some questions can be modified to suit specific learning needs.
Agriculture and Society
Although this lesson is for high school level learners, it can be modified to suit middle schoolers. The learning objective includes comparing and contrasting agriculture, standard of living, and trade of different cultures.
Agriculture and Society - How have Farms Changed Since the 1800s?
This is a study in biotechnology and how it affects modern-day farming. Modifications can be made to study blueberry agriculture in North America.