This book is designed for youth in grades 6-8 to learn about cover crops. It can be used with 4-H projects and clubs, in schools, or in after-school or other out-of-school programs.

It was designed as a standalone project, but it does not need to be used in that way. It may be combined with other project areas or used as a part of a larger agriculture curriculum.

These pages introduce the book as a whole, including information for 4-H educators or volunteers.

Module 1A:
A Plant Primer
This set of activities introduces the function of plant structures, with a key activity being a flower dissection.

Module 1B:
Cover Crops in the Rotation
This set of activities examines what it means to be a cover crop. One activity uses a calendar to show how cover crops fit between cash crop growing seasons.

Module 1C:
Planting & Harvesting
This module explores engineering, with learners developing methods for harvesting seeds and comparing their methods to those of commercial machines.

Module 1D:
Natural & Artificial Selection
This set of activities explores how plants change over time. Learners take a close look at modern corn and the many varieties of wild cabbage we eat every day.

Module 1E:
Gene Editing
These hands-on activities to simulate how scientists can use advanced technologies like CRISPR-Cas9 to accelerate the process of artificial selection.

Module 2A:
Reducing Soil Erosion
Learners work directly with soil to explore the problem of soil erosion and how cover crops help minimize erosion.

Module 2B:
Pollinator Services
This set of activities explores another benefit of cover crops: as a source of food for pollinators like bees, bats, birds, and butterflies!

Module 2C:
Cover Crop Products
This set of activities explores how different products can be made from cover crops, in this case different formulations of ink from vegetable oils.

Module 2D:
Crop Product Supply Chains
This set of activities includes instructions to make sunflower butter and explores the tasks required to make a jar and get it to a grocery store.

The vast majority of images used in this book were in the public domain or created by the authors. Images and sources of information are listed here.

Questions? Contact ISU CeMaST at