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Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix

Louisiana Agriculture in the Classroom

Lesson Plan

Growing a Nation Era 1a: Seeds of Change

Grade Level
9 - 12

Students will engage with the Growing a Nation timeline to explore the significant historical and agricultural events and inventions from American history during the years 1600-1929. Students will recognize the importance of labor in agriculture, discover how the implementation of technology increased agricultural production, and explore the role wool played during this era. Grades 9-12

Estimated Time
2 hours
Materials Needed

Supporting Question 1: What significant events took place in agriculture during Era 1?

Supporting Question 2: What are the similarities and differences of my daily life compared to when my grandparents were my age?

Supporting Question 3: How has ariculture impacted the growth of the nation and individual lives?

Supporting Question 4: Why was wool important to the economy in early colonial times?

  • Carded wool,* 1/4" wide and 14" long piece per student
  • Spinning hooks,* 1 per student
  • Wool Spinning Tutorial

*These items are included in the Wool Spinning Kit, which is available for purchase from A Wool Refill Kit is also available.


boll: the part of a cotton plant that contains the seeds; the pod or capsule of some plants, such as cotton and flax

cotton gin: a machine that separates the seeds, seed hulls, and other small objects from the fibers of cotton

Did You Know?
  • George Washington was a farmer. He had a farm where he experimented with crop rotation and was the first to breed mules.
  • Early Americans were self sufficient; 93% of them were farmers.
  • Farm technologies such as the plow, the use of horse power, and many more helped early colonists thrive.
Background Agricultural Connections

Growing a Nation Era 1: Seeds of Change uses the College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework's Inquiry Arc as a blueprint to lead students through an investigation of the agricultural events and inventions that helped shape history from 1600-1929. The Inquiry Arc consists of four dimensions of 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.3 For more information about the C3 Framework, visit

C3 Table- Growing a Nation 1a: Seeds of Change

Seeds of Change (1600-1929)

Seeds of Change (1600-1929) is the first story event in the Growing a Nation online interactive timeline. The timeline provides a chronological presentation of significant historical events focusing on the important role agriculture has played in America's development. Growing a Nation uses a graphic organizer (timeline) and online multimedia resources to bring depth and meaning to historical events. The interactive timeline and lesson plans merge seamlessly with existing American history textbooks and high school history curricula.

Our country has witnessed sweeping changes—from the untamed wild times of Buffalo Bill to the technological era of Bill Gates and Elon Musk—but food has never lost its central role in our lives. Food not only sustains life but also enriches us in many ways. It warms us on cold, dreary days, entices us with its many aromas, and provides endless variety to the everyday world.

Food is also woven into the fabric of our Nation, our culture, our institutions, and our families. Food is on the scene when we celebrate and when we mourn. We use it for camaraderie, as a gift, and as a reward. We are all aware of how food has changed. What Americans often forget, however, is the remarkable system that delivers to us the most abundant, reasonably priced, and safest food in the world. The American food system—from the farmer to the consumer—is a series of interconnected parts. The farmer produces the food, the processors work their magic, and the wholesalers and retailers deliver the products to consumers, whose choices send market signals back through the system.

In the Good Old Days

In the “good old days” a country kid would help milk the cows, collect fresh eggs, feed the pigs, and pick some berries for breakfast. Today, with less than 2% of the population in the United States involved in agriculture, most of your students get milk from cartons, strawberries from a box in the freezer, and their morning routine involves nothing more than choosing their favorite box of cereal from the cupboard. Their connection to their food has been reduced to a visit to the grocery store. But things may be changing. Farmers’ markets are springing up everywhere, bringing fresh produce, meat, dairy products, and baked goods even to city dwellers. Community supported agriculture programs involve people in growing and harvesting their own food. Everywhere, plots of land are being set aside for community gardens with local libraries checking out tools along with books to get people started growing some of their own food. Many schools are developing innovative educational programs centered on school gardens. And throughout the country, farm “bed and breakfasts” have become popular. Some even offer family vacations where you can become “Old MacDonald” for a week. So even if you don’t live in the country, take the opportunity to become part of agriculture today, and enjoy “the good new days!”

Sheep and Wool 

Wool played an important role in colonial America. Before the Revolutionary War, most of the finest textiles and fashionable styles were imported from Great Britain. Many colonists wanted to produce their own clothing and textile goods. Wool and linen were the most common materials used. Homespun clothes, clothes that were produced by the colonists, reduced the amount of clothing that had to be bought from England.

Wool cloth is woven from yarn that is spun from the fibers grown as the thick fleece of sheep. Once a year, sheep have their fleeces cut off, or sheared. In colonial times, the sheep were sheared in early spring using hand clippers. The wool was cleaned through a process called scouring in which the wool underwent a series of baths before it was laid out to dry. Wool grease is produced as part of the wool's growth and helps protect the sheep's wool and skin from the environment. Scouring removes this grease from the wool.

In preparation for spinning, wool must be carded. The colonists used hand carders to comb the wool, remove debris, and untangle the fibers, aligning them parallel with each other. Colonists used dye formulas that included insects, roots, flowers, nuts, seeds, tree bark, leaves, or berries. Because of the toxic chemistry, many of these colonial dyes have been deemed unsafe in our era. The dyeing process involved soaking wool in kettles of dye over fires for several hours.

Wool was spun into thread or yarn by tightly twisting the fibers using a spinning wheel. Weavers turned the wool thread into cloth using looms. Wool was also felted, a process of matting fibers together, to make products such as hats and slippers.

The Lowell System was a labor production model invented by Francis Cabot Lowell to move each step of the wool manufacturing process under one roof. The Lowell System was first used in the Waltham and Lowell textile mills during the industrial revolution.


Compelling Question: How did agricultural events and inventions help shape history from 1600-1929?

  1. Discuss with your students the possible answers to the question, "What are the major events or inventions that changed American families and communities, science and technology, education, economy, business, trade, labor, and legislation from 1780-1929?"
  2. Play the video, 18th Century Wool Production
  3. Following the video clip, point out that wool is still a fiber used in some textiles today. Ask, "What do you think is different about modern wool production and processing compared to what you saw in the video?"
  4. On a whiteboard or chart paper display the question, "How did agricultural events and inventions help shape history from 1600-1929?" Explain to the students that they will be investigating this compelling question.
Explore and Explain

Supporting Question 1: What significant events took place in agriculture during Era 1?

  1. Using a projector, mobile devices, or computer lab, review the Growing a Nation: Seeds of Change section of the multimedia timeline. The Growing a Nation events and sub-events are designed to be adaptable to a variety of teaching strategies. Each Main Event contains Sub-events that explore American history for a greater understanding of the time period or historical cause and effect relationships. The sub-event tiles ask higher order questions to not only expand student knowledge, but also to increase their comprehension to the level of application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.
  2. After students view selected events and sub-events, explain that they will be investigating the question, "What significant events took place in agriculture during Era 1?" Assign or allow students (or student pairs) to choose a sub-event tile. Students can work off of a computer or mobile device or take a screenshot of the selected sub-event and print.
  3. Ask the students to be prepared to answer the questions on their tile by either using the Think, Pair, Share strategy or by using one of the attached Demonstration of Learning Strategies. You may want to choose a particular strategy to use with the entire class or cut the strategies into strips and ask each student to pick one or two. If the student or group of students is allowed to pick two, ask them to choose the learning strategy they prefer and put the other one back. Keep in mind that some Demonstration of Learning Strategies will be a better fit for some of the event topics than others and that some take more time than others. Some strategies may need to be grouped depending on the available time.
  4. Revisit the question, "What significant events took place in agriculture during Era 1?" (Student answers will vary depending on the events the students research.)

Supporting Question 2: What are the similarities and differences of my daily life compared to when my grandparents were my age?

  1. Explain to the students that they will investigate the question, "What are the similarities and differences of my daily life compared to when my grandparents were my age?"
  2. Read the "In the Good Old Days" section of the Background Agricultural Connections portion of this lesson.
  3. Ask the students if daily life chores have changed since their parents or guardians were children. Ask your students if they can share their parents’/guardians' or grandparents’ childhood stories about things they did around the house that are no longer done today. Are there activities that the students do today that might someday seem dated to their children or grandchildren?
  4. Explain to the students that you have prepared an inventory activity sheet to determine the types of agricultural and everyday activities they have done. Tell the students that some of the activities on the list may seem like novelties, but they may have been a way of life for their parents or grandparents. Pass out the In the Good Old Days Inventory Activity Sheet, and give them time to read it over. Give students the option of adding a few items to the list.
  5. Ask the students to complete the activity sheet by putting a check in the box if they have done the activity.
  6. Ask them to find someone in the class that has done the activity, and then write his or her name in the space. Have all the items been done by the students in class?
  7. Tell the students that they will now get a chance to survey their parents/guardians and their grandparents. Assign students to complete the activity sheet at home by filling in the names of their parent or guardian and, if necessary, a grandparent or neighbor over 65 to fully complete the activity sheet.
  8. When the homework is returned, graph the differences between the generations. As a class, count the number of activities the students did compared to those their parents/guardians and grandparents did. What kind of differences do the students notice? How many students have grown their own food? How many have made their own clothes? Where do these necessities come from today?
  9. Explain to the students that these differences indicate the changes that have taken place over time regarding our relationship to agriculture and our connection to food and fiber production.
  10. Revisit the question, "What are the similarities and differences of my daily life compared to when my grandparents were my age?" (Students should recognize that their grandparents had fewer technologies and likely participated in more of farming practices that produced their food.)

Supporting Question 3: How has agriculture impacted the growth of the nation and individual lives?

  1. Copy for each group or pair of students a set of the Chronological Event Strips for 1600-1929, preferably on colored paper for easy sorting between groups. Cut the events apart into strips. Notice that the strips are separated by eras so that you can select or group the events you would like to use for the activity.
    • Tip: If you’d like the strips to be reused, laminate the Chronological Event Strips pages before you cut them apart.
  2. Explain to the students that they will investigate the question, "How has agriculture impacted the growth of the nation and individual lives?"
  3. Provide each group with selected event strips for the time periods you are discussing. Ask the groups of students to place the events, to the best of their knowledge, in chronological order on their desk. Ask them how confident they are about the order.
  4. Provide each group of students with a Significant Agricultural Events Activity Sheet. Ask them to reorganize their chronology strips into the correct order based on the data sheet. Together, the groups should consider the significance of each event and how it has affected and impacted the cultural/societal categories on the activity sheet.
  5. Instruct each group to place a check mark on the activity sheet, in the appropriate space, if the event had an effect on the cultural/societal category and impacted or changed how we live in the United States today. The activity sheets should be kept for future reference and completed throughout the course. As you review each era and progress through the course, students will be able to see the impact agriculture has made on the growth of the nation and how developments in agriculture have changed their lives. Ask the students to rank the events periodically or when they complete the course. Which events or event do they think had the most impact? Why?
    • As an optional activity, ask students to prepare an individual or group project on the event they feel had the most impact.
  6. Revisit the question, "How has agriculture impacted the growth of the nation and individual lives?" (Agriculture has made it possible for communities to grow and thrive by meeting their basic needs (food, clothing, and shelter) and providing products that could be sold for a solid local economy.)

Supporting Question 4: Why was wool important to the economy in early colonial times?

  1. Explain to the students that they will investigate the question, "Why was wool important to the economy in early colonial times?"
  2. Share with the students the "Sheep and Wool" section of the Background Agricultural Connections.
  3. Give each student a piece of wool approximately 1/4" wide and 14" long and a spinning hook. Explain to the students that they will be hand spinning the wool.
  4. Fold about 1/2" of wool over the end of the spinning hook and begin spinning.
  5. Back your non-spinning hand out as the wool is spun; this is called drafting.
  6. Draft out the wool so that the spun wool is taut, but not "bumpy." If you get twisted bumps in your spun yarn, draft (or let out) more unspun wool. When you have twisted the entire length of the wool, don't let go—it will unspin. You are now ready to ply your yarn.
  7. Plying the yarn will keep it from unspinning and make it stronger. Plying is the twisting together of two single strands of spun wool. Have someone hold the center of the twisted wool while you hold the ends.
  8. Bring the ends of the wool together in one hand so that there are two strands side-by-side. Have your helper let go, and let the wool twist together. It should spring into a twisted strand. The double strand is now called plyed yarn.
  9. You can view a Wool Spinning Tutorial
  10. Revisit the question, "Why was wool important to the economy in early colonial times?" (Prior to the Revolutionary War colonists depended on Great Britian for their wool. Producing and processing wool in the United States decreased dependence on Great Britian.)
Teach with Clarity

Wool was colonial America's first textile. It's important for students to understand how wool was collected, processed, and spun for textiles. This background will help students make a comparison to cotton and recognize why cotton became the desired textile for early colonists.  


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, "How did agricultural events and inventions help shape history from 1600-1929?"

  • Taking Informed Action

    • Understand: Explore modern wool processing. Create a Venn diagram of the similarities and differences between historic wool processing and modern wool processing.
    • Assess: Make a list of technological inventions along with their impact to colonial society.
    • Act: Write an explanatory essay answering the question, "Why was wool important to the economy in early colonial times?"

Activity 2: In the Good Old Days, Adapted from Project Seasons, Shelburne Farms, Shelburne, Vermont

Growing a Nation was funded by USDA CSREES cooperative agreement #2004-38840-01819 and developed cooperatively by: USDA, Utah State University Extension, and LetterPress Software, Inc.

Debra Spielmaker
National Center for Agricultural Literacy
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