Cotton in the Classroom

Cotton touches us in more ways than we can think of. The denim and shirts we wear come from cotton. Cotton is fun to teach to kids. Children can learn how the cotton plant looks, what a cotton boll looks like and other things about this wonderful plant. It is also a great resource for Ag in the Classroom.

The history of cotton is not exactly known. Scientists have found bits of cotton bolls and pieces of cotton cloth in Mexico believed to be at least 7,000 years old. In the Indus River valley in Ancient India, cotton was being grown, spun, and woven into cloth 3,000 years BC. At about the same time, natives of Egypt’s Nile Valley were making and wearing cotton clothing. Arab traders brought cotton cloth to Europe about 800 A.D.

Cotton Gin is a machine designed to separate the seeds from the cotton harvested from the plant. The process uses a small screen and pulling hooks to force the cotton through the screen. It was invented by Eli Whitney on March 14, 1794, one of the many inventions that occurred during the American Industrial Revolution. The cotton gin is a machine designed to separate the seeds from the cotton harvested from the plant.

The bales of cotton are sent from the gin to the textile mills. These textile mills process raw bales of cotton in stages until they produce yarn (fibers twisted into threads used in weaving or knitting) or cloth (fabric or material constructed from weaving or knitting).

Cotton Facts

A universal density bale weighs between 480 and 500 pounds.
Cotton gins are machines that separate the seeds from the lint fibers.
The petals turn from white to light pink.

Educational Activities for Grades K-12

1. Give each student or group of students one cotton boll. Have your students examine the cotton fiber under a magnifying lens. They will notice that these short fibers have almost a silky appearance.

2. Have students grow 3 to 5 cotton seeds in a pot and watch it germinate in 10 days. Discuss different parts of the plant and the life cycle of the cotton plant.

3. Share the background information about cotton picking and cotton ginning. Have students actually remove cotton from the boll and separate seeds from the cotton boll using a roller gin.

4. Have your students weigh their fibers from one boll, and then compare it to the weight of a pair of jeans. Ask students to consider how many cotton bolls are needed to produce a pair of jeans.

5. Quiz students if the average weight of a bale is 500 lb, how many T-shirts can be made from one cotton bale if their average weight of each T-shirt was 6.5 oz.

6. Discuss the invention of the cotton gin and its significance in history and cotton production in the United States. Demonstrate the roller gin to show how it separates seeds from fiber.


1K-12Discuss the origins of cotton. Create a list of products that are derived from cotton.Science
2K-12Read labels on clothing. How many of the clothes contain cotton? Discuss how cotton is grown and processed into fabric.Science
3K-12Discuss the history of American cotton and the key events.American History
4K-12Write biographical essays on Eli Whitney and Samuel Slater.American History
5K-12Create a model of a universal density bale, (dimensions 55″ x 21″ x 26″). Determine its volume and density if a standard bale is 500 lb.Mathematics

Cotton Information Video

lesson plan social studies science for grade 1st 8th


Lesson plan for grade first second third social studies science



The Cotton education kit is an awesome educational resource I used to teach my   class about cotton. Kids got to touch the cotton and grow seeds to see the plants. Now they know where their shirts and jeans come from!
Barbara Smith / School Teacher