3rd Grade - Science

LESSON PROBLEM: Ecology: What are rice farmers doing to help the environment with their water-filled rice fields?


Water is kept on a rice field, or paddy, until the rice begins to ripen. You might think that plants standing in water for several months would be bad for the environment. However, it is not. Growing rice in water improves the environment.

Rice is grown over large areas – three million acres - in the United States each year. Rather than being harmful to the environment, the rice field is a valuable habitat for all types of animals, especially birds.

Places in the United States where rice is grown, serve as wintering areas for millions of waterfowl and shorebirds. Rice fields offer benefits to a large number of migrating waterfowl. Migrating birds go to warmer regions during winter. They cover long distances to protect themselves during the severe cold weather of the North. Each year ducks, geese and shorebirds visit rice fields to fatten up and build strength for their long return journey to their northern nesting grounds.

A healthy rice industry is very important to the health and well being of migratory waterfowl. Fallen grain and weed seeds that remain in the fields after harvest are an important food source for the wintering waterfowl. Before covering the long distances to their summer homes, there is plenty of food to eat in the rice fields. The food keeps them strong and healthy.

Many water insects are also found in the rice paddies. The birds feed on the bugs. The bugs are rich in protein. They develop new feathers and improve their chances of having strong babies.

Growing rice can also improve the quality of water. Rice is grown in fields where water is held for a long period of time. As a result, it becomes clean. The clear water is good for the fish living in nearby rivers and streams.

Rice farmers put clay soils to good use. It is hard to grow plants in heavy clay. But rice grows well in this soil. Heavy clay soil holds water and is perfect for growing rice. The rice paddy prevents soil erosion from rain runoff and loss from wind.

Rice not only feeds us, but also helps the environment.


Draw a picture of some of the wildlife you might find in a rice paddy habitat.


Make a chart showing the benefits of rice farm wetlands to wintering birds. Illustrate your chart.


  • paddys
  • wintering
  • migratory
  • wetlands
  • stagnant
  • habitat
  • aquatic
  • breeding
  • potential
  • marshland
  • soil erosion

Click here to play Rice Rampage!
American Rice:
More than 90% of the rice eaten in the United States is grown by U.S. farmers.
Click here to learn more about where Rice is grown in the United States.
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