A statewide project equipping K-12 educators to teach Iowa history using primary sources

Teaching Iowa History Logo

Home » Lesson Plans » Industrial Revolution Iowa

Industrial Revolution in Iowa

Lesson Plan Item

General Information
Grade 4th Grade Class Social Studies Length of Lesson 75 Minutes
Lesson Title Industrial Revolution in Iowa
Unit Title The Industrial Revolution
Unit Compelling Question Was the Industrial Revolution beneficial for our global society?
Historical Context:

In the late part of the 18th century rural areas of North America and Europe were transformed into urban societies. Goods that were once made by hand began to be produced in large quantities in large factories with machinery.

The introduction of steam power jump-started the Industrial Revolution in Britain and quickly spread to America and then worldwide.  Steam-powered factories produced goods, and steam-powered trains transported those goods to markets.  Large factories were established, leading to the growth of cities and urban centers.  Large numbers of people flooded into the cities seeking employment in the factories and mills.    In many cases this led to over population, pollution of air and water resources, and dangerous working conditions.  

~ Allyson Simpson, Simpson College


2018.056.007  3/4 VIEW FROM NORTHWEST - Chicago & Northwestern Railroad Viaduct, Spanning Des Moines River at Chicago & Northwestern Railroad tracks, Boone, Boone County, IA.  

In 1867, the first railroad tracks in Iowa that were state-wide were constructed by the Chicago, Iowa and Nebraska Railway, whose name soon changed to Chicago & Northwestern Railway Company.  In 1884, a section known as the "Iowa Lease Lines" or "Blair Roads" was bought by the company. The section covered 900 miles and connected the cities of Council Bluffs, Cedar Rapids, Clinton, Sioux City and Fremont, Nebraska. By 1890, the company absorbed a large section of railway (385 miles) in Iowa that was held under the ownership of the Toledo & Northwestern Railway. The Chicago & Northwestern Railway operated until 1995 when it merged with the Union Pacific Railway Company.

~ Lauren Adams, Teaching Iowa History Team


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.

2018.017.011  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.

~ Matthew Miller, Teaching Iowa History Team
Lesson Supporting Question What was life like during the Industrial Revolution?
Lesson Overview

Students will compare differing perspectives on the Industrial Revolution. This lesson is after an introductory lesson so students should know that the Industrial Revolution was the shift to more machines and industry in the United States. This lesson will focus on Iowa and how different people such as farmers, railroad workers, and businessmen might have been affected.

Primary Sources Used
Resources Needed
Lesson Target
  • Students will explain how the Industrial Revolution might have impacted Iowa and it’s farms through a RAFT with all 4 sections clearly used.
Lesson Themes No themes are assigned for this lesson.
Lesson Procedure
.Step Procedure Time Differentiation plan / Additional Information
Bell Ringer

●     Review what the Industrial Revolution is.

Ask students what changed during that time.
Guide them to the fact that many new machines were created to many everyday tasks easier.

What machines do they use that make their lives easier? Share with classmates at table.
5 Min For students that get distracted easily, partner them up with preassigned students that are good at focusing. 

Explain to students that the goal of this lesson will be to look at how the Industrial Revolution affected different people in Iowa.
Put picture of horse-drawn cutter up next to picture of gasoline powered tractor. 

Tractor (2018.037.002)
Horse-Drawn Corn Cutter (2018.017.011)
Show video of gasoline powered tractor
Tell students to look for advantages and disadvantages of this type of machine.

10 Min Show modern tractor for students that don’t have knowledge of farms.

●      Students create and fill out graphic organizer thinking like a historian 

●      Think about what advantages and disadvantages each type of machine has 

15 Min

Have a premade graphic organizer already made for students who struggle to stay organized. It would have 3 columns for advantages and disadvantages. 

Transition Share graphic organizer with those at your table 5 Min  

Ask students if they think the Industrial Revolution was a positive or negative event in history. 
Take a vote. Everyone is right! 
Talk about how the Industrial Revolution was positive for some farmers, but not everyone may have thought so.


Share picture of railroad bridge - Railroad Bridge (2018.056.007)


10 Min  

Think like an economist - what impact does the railroad have for these farmers


Prompting questions: 

How do people meet their needs?
What goods and services are produced and consumed?

How do jobs impact people and the economy?
5 Min Give out sheets with prompting questions for thinking like an economist.

Students complete RAFT

R - Farmer, Railroad worker, John Froelich, Cow

A - John Deere Company, Landowner, Farmer’s wife, Someone from a different state

F - Letter, News story, Video, Advertisement

T - How the Industrial Revolution has changed their life
20 Min Give alternative options for students if they struggle with certain forms.
Formative Assessment
(How will you use the formative assessments to monitor and inform instruction?)
  • ● Review of Industrial Revolution ○ The student answers will show what parts need to be retaught or focused on more during the lesson. ○ This can also be used to assess the last lesson. ● Graphic Organizer This will show if the students are able to think like a historian about the topic. If they struggle with the assessment, review thinking like a historian.
Summative Assessment
(How does the lesson connect to planned summative assessment(s)?)
  • The RAFT at the end shows weather students understood the different perspectives on the Industrial Revolution. They will show how it affected their person and the advantages or disadvantages.
Author Information
Author Kelly Schwart Reviewer Dr. Chad Timm, Simpson College Created 08/16/2019 Last Edited 09/06/2019
Lesson Plan Development Notes: Social Studies Methods, Simpson College, Spring 2019

Objects Large for Lesson Plans

No objects were found.