Harvest, Winnow, Thresh (ESYB)

Published February 22, 2012 | Updated November 29, 2015
Subject: History
Season: Fall
Place of Learning: Garden
Resource Type: Lessons
Grade Level: Grade 6
Uploaded by:
Kyle Cornforth
Program Affiliations:

In this 6th grade lesson, students learn how to harvest, thresh and winnow seasonal grains and play the game, Seed to Table.



After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Harvest, thresh and winnow grain
  • Summarize the seed to table cycle



During this lesson, students will:

  • Assess the ripeness of a seasonal grain, then harvest, thresh and winnow a stalk
  • Explain each step of the seed to table cycle and arrange the illustrated cards of the Seed to Table game.


  • Clippers
  • Tarp, white cloth or bed sheet large enough for 8 students to sit, winnow, and sift on
  • Small bowls for winnowing
  • Large bowls for capturing seed
  • Sifting screens (3 different gauges: 1/4’’, 1/8’’, 1/16’’)
  • Whole grain plants (quinoa, amaranth, barley or wheat)
  • Seed to Table game cards


Before you Begin
  • Make sure that seasonal grain is growing abundantly in the garden
  • Collect all the materials, and then set up the tarp, screens and bowls to make the grain station



At the Opening Circle

  1. Welcome students and introduce the lesson.
  2. Ask students if they have ever heard of the terms Harvest, Thresh and Winnow and define each term.
  3. Introduce the seasonal grain that students will be working with and explain what the grain will be used for after it has been harvested, threshed, and winnowed. (example: Greens over Grains, planting in the garden)
  4. Explain that the class will be divided into four groups. Two groups will begin at the grain station, while the other two will work on a garden job. Half way through class, the groups will switch.
  5. Explain to students that when they return to closing circle, they will play the game Seed to Table. Prompt students to think about what Seed to Table refers to and explain that every time students participate in a garden job, they are participating in the Seed to Table Cycle.

In the Field

  1. Walk students to the seasonal grain patch in the garden and give a brief history of the grain: Where is it native? What is the family? What characteristics does it have?
  2. Explain how we know when the grain is ripe and demonstrate how it is harvested.
  3. Have each student pick a bundle of grains, and instruct them to be careful not to shake or disturb the seeds in the plants yet.

At the Seed to Table Station

  1. Once everyone has a bundle of grain, gather students around the white cloth on the ground at the seed to table station. Demonstrate threshing the seed from the plant by rubbing the grain’s flowers between your hands over the cloth.
  2. Once all the seed has fallen from the stalk, gather all the seed and chaff in the center of the cloth and lower into a large bowl.
  3. Explain to students that the next steps will involve winnowing, which is separating the chaff from the seed.
  4. Demonstrate how to winnow by using the sifters and by blowing gently across the surface of the seeds. The chaff should blow off while the seeds remain in the bowl.
  5. Have students winnow
  6. Once the seed is winnowed, prompt students to think of two reasons for saving seeds (for cooking and for planting in the garden).

At the Closing Circle

  1. Pass the Seed to Table game cards out to students. Have the students describe what is shown in each illustrated card.
  2. Begin at one card and have students rearrange themselves so that the pictures represent a seed to table cycle. Keep in mind that there can be different sequences of cards that are correct.
  3. Ask for a volunteer to tell a story using the ordered cards as a guide. Remind students that the cycle repeats itself, and therefore can start at any point.
  4. Prompt students to think about a different order for the cards keeping in mind the Harvest, Thresh, and Winnow activity.


Connections to Standards

Common Core, English Language Arts & Literacy, Grade 6
RI.6.7 - Integration of Knowledge and Ideas - Reading from Informational Texts:
Integrate information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words to develop a coherent understanding of a topic or issue.

California State, History and Social Science, Grade 6
6.1.3 Discuss the climatic changes and human modifications of the physical environment that gave rise to the domestication of plants and animals and new sources of clothing and shelter.

Edible Schoolyard In the Garden Harvest, Grade 6
6.1 Students harvest with guidance.
6.2 Students recognize the garden/kitchen relationship and are introduced to seed to table concept.
6.4 Students handle post harvest crops appropriately with guidance.


All lessons at the Edible Schoolyard Berkeley are a collaboration between the teachers and staff of the Edible Schoolyard and Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School.


Thank you for posting this great lesson. We are growing amaranth, rye, and buckwheat this year and hope to incorporate the harvesting, threshing, and winnowing into our 6th and 7th grade farm-based ed. class. Thanks again for the resource!

2 years ago

This is a really great lesson. It helps kids make the connection between how food gets processed into what we eat on our plates. The making of flour in particular can be hard to visualize and this lesson lets the kids be a part of every step. Going through the whole process themselves also makes the kids appreciate just how much grain is needed to make a cup of flour.

4 years ago

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