Tops and Bottoms: Edible and Inedible
Structure and Function
Place of Learning: 
Grade Level: 
This lesson introduces the plant parts, highlighting the parts that are edible and those that are not. It also informs students about how to safely and respectfully pick and taste plants growing in our gardens.
Student Learning Goals & Objectives: 

Students will:

  1. Identify different parts of plants as growing above or below ground and as edible or inedible.
  2. Identify the different functions of leaves, stems, and roots in supporting a plant.
Materials & Prep: 
  • Flash cards with foods that grow above ground
  • Flash cards with foods that grow below ground
  • Samples of plants leafy tops and those with big roots
  • Cutting board and knife for slicing tastings
Procedure Steps: 
  1. Prepare samples of different types of edible plant tops and bottoms (leaves and roots) that are washed and sliced for tasting.
    • Including edible and inedible, preferably those found growing in the garden for matching activities, to show students the difference.
Telling Stories about Plant Parts
  1. Review plants that are growing in the garden, noting those that are ready to be harvested.
    • Describe the parts of the plants, highlighting those that we can eat and those that we cannot.
  2. Pass around samples of plants, pointing out the parts that grow above ground and those that grow below ground.
    • Show students the fruit and vegetable cards as examples of plant parts we eat and those we don’t eat.
  3. Read the stories “Tops and Bottoms” and “Growing Vegetable Soup.”
  4. Ask:
    • What is your favorite vegetable?
    • Does it grow above or below ground?
    • Does it have a part that we cannot eat?
    • Which part do we eat?
    • How do you prefer to eat it (cooked, raw, sliced, or dipped)?
  5. Demonstrate how to plant vegetable starts with the roots (bottoms) embedded in the earth.
Tops and Bottoms Relay
  1. Move students to the playground or open space where they may run freely.
  2. Explain that you will hold up a series of cards with pictures of foods that grow above the ground (tops) or below the ground (bottoms).
    • As you hold up each food, the students will run (or walk, skip, jump) into the area of the yard, etc. marked as Tops or the area marked as Bottoms, depending on which part of the plant the food comes from.
    • Demonstrate a few times with student volunteers as you hold up a picture and have them follow you to the correct area. Once students understand the directions, begin the game.
Student Reflection
  1. Where does your favorite fruit or vegetable grow?
    • Is it found in our garden?
    • Does it grow above or below ground?
English Language Learning (ELL) Focus: Identifying and Lists
  1. Sometimes we eat the root (such as beets, carrots, radishes)
  2. Sometimes we eat the flower (such as broccoli and cauliflower)
  3. Sometimes we eat the leaf (such as cabbage and lettuce)
  4. Sometimes we eat stems (such as asparagus and celery)
  5. Sometimes we eat the fruit (such as blueberries, cherries and apples)
  6. Sometimes we eat the seed (such as pomegranates and pumpkin seeds)
Additional Information

These books help young students relate and understand content through narratives. The ELL focus above is helpful to reference during and after reading these stories.

  • “Eating the Alphabet,” by Elois Ehlerts
  • “Tops and Bottoms,” by Janet Stevens
  • “Oliver’s Vegetables,” by Vivial French
  • “Roots, Stems, Leaves” song, by The Banana Slug String Band

Academic Standards

Next Generation Science Standards

Disciplinary Core Ideas


Structure and Function: All organisms have external parts. Plants have different parts (roots, stems, leaves, flowers, fruits) that help them survive and grow. Different animals use their body parts in different ways to see, hear, grasp objects, protect themselves, move from place to place, and seek, find, and take in food, water and air.

California Academic Content Standards

Physical Education


Explain that nutritious food provides energy for physical activity.