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Impacts of Agriculture

Lesson Plan Item

General Information
Grade 2nd Grade Class Social Studies Length of Lesson 45 Minutes
Lesson Title Impacts of Agriculture
Unit Title Natural Resources
Unit Compelling Question Why should we be cautious when using Iowa’s natural resources?
Historical Context:

Iowa created the DNR (Department of Natural Resources) in 1986. They are in charge of helping to protect our state parks, forest, wildlife, land, and water resources. Iowa is known around the country for having very fertile soil. In Iowa we are number one in the production of corn, oats, and soybeans.  Iowa's good black soil is a natural resource.  It has produced  many goods and services for people in the United States and around the world.  Iowa also has beautiful and inspiring state parks. The DNR was created to help protect Iowa's natural resources.


~ Allyson Simpson, Simpson College


2018.017.003 Before farmers used large machinery to harvest corn, the work was done by hand. As corn was harvested, husking hooks that were attached to the gloves either near the palm or on the fingers, were used to rip corn husks open so that the ears of corn could be easily air-dried in corn cribs.

2018.017.004  Corn knives such as this one are used to cut through corn stalks, and they are typically used when harvesting corn by hand.
2018.017.001  This hand planter was used by farmers to place corn seeds into the ground. Machines such as this one allowed farmers to plant more seeds in a shorter amount of time than previous planting methods.

2018.034.002  This sod breaking plow was used by one of the first families to settle in Audubon County. Plows like this were used to prepare land for farming. After this plow was no longer used for farming, it became a lawn landscaping piece.

Pictured is the standing cutter of the plow which was made of steel, while the handles were made of wood. The plow would be pulled by oxen to loosen and plow the soil before planting. The plow helped to cut through roots that grown to a large size underground which helped with a better growing season and plentiful harvest.  The depth of which the cutter went underground could be controlled with a lever and after a hole was cut through the root, a seed could be dropped into the soil. "Breaking prairie" as the term came to be called, varied on whether the spring was wet or dry, which affected when the soil could be broken.

2018.017.011  This photograph shows a Chickasaw County farmer cutting corn. The farmer appears to be using a corn cutter, which was a horse-drawn sled with blades attached to it that cut one or two rows of corn at a time.

2018.037.002  This photograph shows the gasoline-powered tractor that Iowan John Froelich invented in 1892. This tractor was the first of its kind that could forward and in reverse. After inventing this tractor, Froelich helped found the Waterloo Gasoline Traction Engine Company, which was purchased by the John Deere Company in 1918.

While working for a mobile threshing company, Froelich realized that farmers had difficulty getting coal for their steam-powered tractors. In 1892, Froelich worked towards a solution to the problem by attaching a Vanduzen engine on top of Robinson steam engine frame. The gasoline-powered tractor was met with confusion by farmers, but soon became popular as it was the first of its kind to move forwards and backwards. Working with George Miller, Froelich opened the Waterloo Gasoline Tractor Engine Company and developed the Waterloo Boy line of tractors. Froelich's invention helped to modernize the farming industry and led to new farming techniques and increased productivity and the size of farms. However, despite creating the first gas-powered tractor, it was not able to pull a horse plow behind it as it was too bulky. This issue was soon  fixed with a design released by the Hart-Parr Company.

2018.054.024  Almost all farms in Wright County had low wet spots that could not be used for farming until they were drained. Only the tops of the hills could be farmed.  Farmers dug tile ditches by hand or hired others to dig the ditches.  It was a good first job for immigrants before they had language skills to earn money to pay for their passage.  Farmers at first just started at a low spot and dug a ditch from pond to pond.  Later the county engineer would lay out the line.  Draining ponds increased the land available for farming and the rich soil was discovered.

Drainage of excess water is determined by the topography of the land and the natural slopes of the ground. In some areas, drainage is present but in others, no drainage means excess water floods farming fields and destroys crops.

~ Matthew Miller, Teaching Iowa History Team
Lesson Supporting Question Why is soil a valuable resource to people in Iowa and around the world?
Lesson Overview

In this lesson, students will explore agriculture in Iowa then and now. Students will “think like a geographer” by analyzing primary sources. Students will also read an article about agriculture and discuss difficulties of raising the food supply for an increasing population without a growing amount of soil. This lesson leads up to students creating a cause & effect booklet to show good and bad consequences of using Iowa’s natural resources. 


*This lesson is planned for one of the last lessons in the natural resource unit. Up to this lesson, students have learned about natural vs. human-made resources and can explain the terms renewable and nonrenewable. Students are aware that soil is an interesting resource—soil can be remade, classifying it as renewable, but soil can also be classified as nonrenewable because of how long it takes for soil to be remade. Students have also practiced asking questions like geographers. 

Primary Sources Used
Resources Needed
Lesson Target
  • Students will answers the article questions with 80% accuracy.
Lesson Themes No themes are assigned for this lesson.
Lesson Procedure
Step Procedure Time Differentiation plan / Additional Information
Bell Ringer

The teacher will divide students into 5 groups. 
The farming cards will be taped to the middle of large post-it note paper.
Each group will receive one poster with a group of pictures and captions. 
Students will complete a QFT (Question Formulation Technique) of their photographs. For the QFT, students will write down as many questions as they can in 3 minutes about:

Farm tools
Differences/Similarities between the past/present pictures

The teacher will remind students to think like geographers when asking questions (the thinking like a geographer concept has been covered in previous lessons). 

Teachers can have students refer to their thinking like a geographer question sheet for guidance:

Each group will share out two questions with the class. 
6 Min For the QFT, I expanded the time to 3 minutes. This is to help with time anxiety and encourage students to write out complete questions. 

The teacher will explain to students they will be filling out a T-Chart while continuing to look at the photographs. 
Students will fill out a T-Chart while continuing to analyze the photographs. One side of the chart will be for similarities between the two photos and the other side will be for differences.

Students will be encouraged to answer the questions they formulated in the QFT activity to help fill out the chart. 
3 Min  
Student Students will collaborate in their groups to fill out their T-Charts.  8 Min  

The teacher will ask students: “How has the way we use soil changed over time?”

Students will think-pair-share and then share out. 
4 Min  

The teacher will pass out Newsela articles about agriculture. 
Before reading, the teacher will discuss the meaning of:

Sustainable agriculture (farming in ways that benefit the environment and communities, but are also profitable).
5 Min The articles can be differentiated for readiness. The students can read the same content at different reading levels, so students will not know they are reading different leveled passages. 

Have students read the article individually and answer the following questions:

How does agriculture make life easier?

Why is it difficult to get enough food to people in some places of the world?
5 Min  

The teacher will write the two questions from the article on the whiteboard in two separate columns. 
Students will work with a partner to focus on one question and write their names and answer on the sticky note and place it under the corresponding question. 

The teacher will read aloud a few sticky note answers (without names) from each question and ask if the students agree or disagree. 
5 Min  

Students will answer the following question on an exit slip sheet:

Why is soil a valuable resource to people in Iowa and around the world?
4 Min  
Formative Assessment
(How will you use the formative assessments to monitor and inform instruction?)
  • ● The teacher will check students’ sticky notes to see what information they pulled from the article. ● The teacher will check students’ exit slips for information they gathered from the lesson as a whole. The teacher can organize both formative assessments into groups of students who are on the path to meeting the standard and those who may need more support or who may need to review content in small groups to meet the standard.
Summative Assessment
(How does the lesson connect to planned summative assessment(s)?)
  • ● The unit summative assessment will consist of the students creating a cause & effect booklet to represent natural resources that we use and what the consequences of using those resources can be (good and bad). ● Here is an example of what one page from the booklet may look like: Natural Resource Soil (student drawing) Consequences ● Soil lets us grow food and feed people in our communities. (good consequence) ● Soil takes a very long time to make, so it is easy to use, but not as easy to replace. (bad consequence)
Author Information
Author Shelby Miller Reviewer Dr. Chad Timm, Simpson College Created 08/17/2019 Last Edited 09/06/2019
Lesson Plan Development Notes: Social Studies Methods, Simpson College, Spring 2019

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