In this lesson students will make orange juice to learn the steps and costs involved in processing food from its original form to its final form.

The activity in this lesson will promote a natural curiosity about how food affects their health while reinforcing food and agriculture as their connection to a better quality of life. Students will assess the advantages and disadvantages of processed food and its effect on our society in jobs, costs, energy use, health, and environmental impacts.

Lesson overview

Grades 3-6
Time 1 hour
Standards NGSS 4-ESS3-1 


Connecting CCCs and SEPs

  • Is there energy required in growing an orange? Where does the energy come from? (Energy and Matter; Obtaining, Evaluating and Communicating Information.)
  • What type of energy is required to turn an orange into orange juice? (Energy and Matter; Obtaining, Evaluating and Communicating Information.)
  • What energy would be required if we wanted to run an orange juice factory? (Energy and Matter; Obtaining, Evaluating and Communicating Information.)
  • What are some of the environmental effects caused when orange juice is made on a large scale, like in a factory? (Scale, Proportion & Quantity; Engaging in Argument from Evidence).


Nutrition - The study of food and how it affects the body

Preserve - To keep safe from injury or spoiling

Processing - To change something by special treatment

Food Systems - The sum of all of the steps food takes to end up in our bellies.

Agriculture - The art and science of growing crops and raising livestock for food

Local - Sourcing food from nearby areas

Environmental Impact - Any change in the environment, whether good or bad, that a product has caused.


  • A collection of processed foods
  • Oranges
  • Large bowl
  • 1 small paper cup per student
  • Soap
  • Hand sanitizer and sanitizer spray


  • Call the foodbank to arrange a time to pick up a box of oranges. Or, if you have money in your garden budget, purchase the oranges.
  • Check out the book An Orange in January by Dianna Hutts Aston (available through OCE Library, Local Library system, and many school libraries).
  • Sanitize tables and cooking implements.


Engage: Begin with a classroom discussion in the seating area in your garden or in the classroom. Ask the following questions: What’s the difference between an orange and orange juice? What steps are involved in making orange juice? What do you need to make juice?

Explore: Invite students to pass around different processed foods and have them read the labels to figure out what is in them. Alternately ask them to imagine what ingredients are in them, and how those ingredients come from the earth. Would it be cheaper to buy foods like these from a store or make them yourself? Why/why not?

Explanation: If you have An Orange in January you can start by reading this and proceed to the following discussion. Have you ever heard about processed foods before? What does that mean? That means food that has had something done to it, to change it from the form it is found in nature. For example, bread is a processed food, because you don’t just get bread on a bread bush, you have to first grow wheat, and then wheat seeds need to be harvested and then processed to make flour. After the flour is made, then it needs to be even processed further to bake it into bread. Processed foods take a lot more energy and work to make. Due to this they are usually more expensive. It is more expensive to buy a can of jam than it would be to buy the fruit and sugar to make that jam with! Today we are going to make orange juice, a processed food, to learn about the steps involved to make orange juice.


  1. Divide the class into groups of 5-6 students (slicers, juicers, packagers, mixers, labelers, and transporters)
  2. Have every student wash their hands. 20 seconds, or the length of time it takes to sing happy birthday, is the right amount of time it takes to clean germs off of our hands.
  3. Have the slicers cut the oranges in half and hand them to the juicers.
  4. The juicers juice the orange into a pitcher.
  5. The mixers stir in about half as much water as juice to the pitcher.
  6. The packagers pour the finished juice evenly into small cups.
  7. The Labelers use sharpie and tape to label each cup.
  8. The transporters hand out a cup to each student.
  9. Drink the juice

Reflect: What did you learn about making orange juice? Is it processed food? What are some advantages of making orange juice at home? What are some disadvantages?

Extension activities

  • Have students research food preparation in other cultures such as that of Native Americans in precolonial times. Compare it with food preparation today.
  • Have students investigate prices of foods in their original form and the same products in processed forms. How many processed products can they find for one original food?


Thank you One Cool Earth!

The lessons and resources for this topic have been adapted from the Earth Genius curriculum developed by One Cool Earth, a California 501(c)3 non-profit dedicated to bringing garden education to students.