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National Agriculture in the Classroom

Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix

Lesson Plan

Growing Our State History (Grades 3-5)

Grade Level

3 - 5

Purpose

Students investigate what makes a community livable and explore the influence of agriculture on the history of their state. Grades 3-5

Estimated Time

2 hours

Materials Needed

Engage:

Supporting Question 1: Where do our everyday necessities come from?

*A Source Search Kit is available for purchase from agclassroomstore.com.

Supporting Question 2: What makes a location good for settlement?

Supporting Question 3: How important is agriculture to my community?

Vocabulary

agriculture: the science, art, or practice of cultivating the soil, producing crops, and raising livestock and in varying degrees the preparation and marketing of the resulting products

domesticate: to breed a population of animals or plants to serve the purposes of human beings and to need and accept human care

natural resources: materials or substances such as minerals, forests, water, and fertile land that occur in nature and can be used for economic gain

selective breeding: process by which humans control the breeding of plants or animals in order to exhibit or eliminate a particular characteristic

Background Agricultural Connections

Growing Our State History uses the College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework's Inquiry Arc as a blueprint to lead students through an investigation of what makes a community livable. The Inquiry Arc consists of four dimensions or informed inquiry in social studies:

  1. Developing questions and planning inquiries;
  2. Applying disciplinary concepts and tools;
  3. Evaluating sources and using evidence;
  4. Communicating conclusions and taking informed action.

The four dimensions of the C3 Framework center on the use of questions to spark curiosity, guide instruction, deepen investigations, acquire rigorous content, and apply knowledge and ideas in real world settings to become active and engaged citizens in the 21st century.1

C3 Table- Growing Our State History (Grades 3-5)

What Makes a Community Livable?

Agriculture is the science or practice of farming. It includes the cultivation of the soil to grow crops as well as the rearing of animals to provide meat, wool, eggs, and milk. Agricultural practices led to the domestication of plants and animals. Over thousands of years, plants and animals with desirable traits have been chosen to perpetuate their genetic characteristics through a process called selective breeding. As agriculture progressed, families and communities changed. Rather than relying on a nomadic hunter-gatherer lifestyle, societies were built, and people settled in one place for long periods of time.

Settlement occurs where locations provide opportunities. The following factors can make a location good for settlement:

  • harbors
  • resources for housing and fuel
  • reliable fresh water supply
  • non-hostile neighbors
  • natural defenses
  • reliable food sources
  • suitable land for agriculture

The Influence of Agriculture on the History of the State

Each state has its own unique history explaining why people chose to settle there. Opportunities for agriculture and the presence of natural resources impacted both the settlement and overall success of the communities. Every state's history began because agriculture could exist and provide for basic needs. The diet of early settlers would not have been as diverse as what we enjoy today, but they could grow and store sufficient food and provide feed for livestock animals to provide their meat, milk, and eggs. 

In early settlement eras, all of the basic food needs had to be provided by agriculture within a very short distance due to limitations with transportation of food and other goods. Towns that did not have a sustainable source of resources to meet the community's needs failed and were deserted. A deserted town with few or no remaining residents is known as a ghost town. Most ghost towns were abandoned due to one or more of the following reasons:

  • Depleted nonrenewable natural resources (many ghost towns are old mining towns)
  • Disaster (repeated flooding, fires, avalanches, drought, contamination, dust storms)
  • Unsuccessful farming
  • Changes in access to the town (highways or railroads built that bypass the site)
  • Creation of dams or reservoirs that flood previously occupied towns

As agriculture evolved and the ability to transport goods increased, communities could also rely on non-agricultural economies to earn money which was then used to buy food from farmers. These changes in society, paired with advances in agriculture, allowed for more urbanization, the movement of people from rural areas to towns and cities. 

How has your state been influenced by agriculture? To learn more, visit your state's Agriculture in the Classroom program. Below is a list of state history websites:

Engage

Compelling Question: What makes a community livable?

Teacher Preparation: Prior to teaching this activity, use an Internet search or the List of Ghost Towns in the United States to identify a ghost town in your state. If possible, choose a ghost town that was abandoned due to depleted natural resources or unsuccessful farming. Create a slideshow with pictures and information about the ghost town including a map showing where in the state the ghost town is located, the reason the town was settled, the main industry in the town, interesting facts and/or events from the town's history, and reasons the town was abandoned. 

  1. Ask the students, "What is a ghost town?" After listening to their answers, clarify that a ghost town is a deserted town with few or no remaining residents.
  2. Lead a class discussion about why a town may become deserted. Include the following reasons in the discussion:
    • Depleted nonrenewable natural resources (many ghost towns are old mining towns)
    • Disaster (repeated flooding, fires, avalanches, drought, contamination, dust storms)
    • Unsuccessful farming
    • Changes in access to the town (highways or railroads built that bypass the site)
    • Creation of dams or reservoirs that flood previously occupied towns
  3. Present your ghost town slideshow to the class. 
  4. On a whiteboard or chart paper display the question, "What makes a community livable?" Explain to the students that they will be exploring the history of their state and what makes the communities there livable.
Explore and Explain

Supporting Question 1: Where do our everyday necessities come from?

  1. Explain to the students that to understand what makes a community livable, they need to investigate the question, "Where do our everyday necessities come from?"
  2. Complete the relay activity from the A Search for the Source (Grades 3-5) lesson. Emphasize that our everyday necessities come from farms or natural resources. In addition, farms rely on natural resources. Students should recognize that Earth's natural resources are critical to our survival.
  3. Show the Resources: Welcome to the Neighborhood video.
  4. Lead a discussion about the importance of living near resources that are necessary for survival. Use the following questions to guide the discussion:
    • What do humans need to survive? (food, water, air, and shelter)
    • Are all resources humans need for survival available everywhere on Earth? (No, communities are purposely located near resources that are necessary for survival.)
    • Are all resources ready to use right out of the Earth? (No, some resources are transformed before we use them. For example, water is cleaned before we drink it and food needs to be cultivated.)
  5. Revisit the question, "Where do our everyday necessities come from?" (Our everyday necessities come from farms or natural resources.)

Supporting Question 2: What makes a location good for settlement?

  1. Explain to the students that they are going to investigate the question, "What makes a location good for settlement?"
  2. Organize students into small groups. Provide each group with a physical map of your state
  3. Tell the groups that they are the leaders of a community in the 1800s and they are looking for a place in the state to settle. Ask the group to identify their settlement location and list at least three reasons for choosing the location.
  4. Have the students share their location and reasoning with the class. While the students are sharing, make note of the factors they thought would make the location good for settlement on the board.
  5. Lead a discussion about the factors that can make a location good for settlement. Include the notes you took while students were presenting their ideas and the following factors in the discussion:
    • harbors
    • resources for housing and fuel
    • reliable fresh water supply
    • non-hostile neighbors
    • natural defenses
    • reliable food sources
    • suitable land for agriculture
  6. Explain to the students that new technologies changed the way places were settled. For example, with the invention of cars, highways were built, and people wanted to live in towns with easy access to highways. Some towns that were bypassed by highways and railroads didn't last and became ghost towns.
  7. Provide each group with a cities map of your state. Instruct them to mark their settlement location on their cities map. Is their site near a populated area?
  8. Ask the groups to consider why they avoided certain areas of the state. Reasons may include that the land cannot be used to grow crops; the land is too mountainous, dry, or swampy; the location is too remote and far away from major highways; the climate is too harsh; the site is located inside public lands; the site is located inside an Indian reservation.
  9. Provide each student with a Settlement Site Activity Sheet and have them research the populated town closest to their site with their groups.
    • What is the name of the closest town to your settlement site?
    • What is the population?
    • Is the town close to water (rivers, lakes, ocean)?
    • Is the town close to any major highways?
    • What is the climate like?
    • What agricultural crops are grown or raised in this area?
    • What natural resources can be found in this area?
    • Why do you think this town or city is located where it is?
  10. Have the students consider the town or city in which they live. Ask them, "Why do you think our town/city is located where it is?" Discuss the resources near your community that make the area livable.
  11. Revisit the question, "What makes a location good for settlement?" (The factors that make a location good for settlement include harbors, resources for housing and fuel, reliable fresh water supply, non-hostile neighbors, natural defenses, reliable food sources, and suitable land for agriculture.)

Supporting Question 3: How important is agriculture to my community?

  1. Explain to the students that they are going to investigate the question, "How important is agriculture to my community?"
  2. Using your state agricultural commodity promotion site or the State Agricultural Facts, ask students to identify the top 5-10 commodities grown in the state, then using a map outline of the state, ask students to identify and color/mark the locations where the crops/livestock are raised in the state. Ask this question for discussion, “Would these products be considered local based on where we live?”
  3. Review the factors that can make a location good for settlement by listing them on the board:
    • harbors
    • resources for housing and fuel
    • reliable fresh water supply
    • non-hostile neighbors
    • natural defenses
    • reliable food sources
    • suitable land for agriculture
  4. Circle "reliable food sources" and "suitable land for agriculture." Explain that the history of your state has been influenced by agriculture. Emphasize that agriculture makes it possible to have communities.
  5. Ask the students to think about the types of farms they have seen throughout their state. Ask, "What types of food can be grown in our state?" List their answers on the board.
  6. Provide each student with an Agricultural Facts Sheet for your state and a MyPlate Activity Sheet. Review with the students that MyPlate is a visual guide that is used to remind us to balance our diets and eat from all five food groups proportionally. Ask the students to review the Agricultural Fact Sheet and list the foods that are grown in your state in the appropriate food groups on the MyPlate Activity Sheet.
  7. Have students think about what foods cannot be grown in your state. The foods they are accustomed to eating originate from a variety of places throughout the country and even the globe. Would they be able to consume a healthy diet without foods grown in other parts of the country or world? 
  8. Revisit the question, "How important is agriculture in my community?" (Agriculture makes it possible to have communities.)

This lesson explores foundational concepts about how agriculture and the history of a state are connected. If you live in the following states, refer to your local agricultural literacy history resources:

 
Evaluate

Summative Performance Task

Using evidence from historical sources, construct an argument (e.g., essay, project, video production, portfolio, detailed outline, poster) that addresses the compelling question, "What makes a community livable?"

Elaborate

Taking Informed Action

  • Understand: Identify an area in or near your community where food is produced and the crops that are produced there.
  • Assess: Consider what would happen if that farmland was developed and covered with buildings.
  • Act: Create a public service message in the form of a poster to highlight the importance of agriculture to your community.
Acknowledgements

Ghost Town Photo Credit: Mike McBey

Author

Lynn Wallin

Organization

National Center for Agricultural Literacy

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