Five Ways to Link Agriculture to Social Studies

Science was my favorite subject as a kid and still is today. Writing lessons about science is second-nature for me, but recently I made a concentrated effort to emphasize other subjects more. After diving deeply into all subjects of the Iowa Core, I may have developed a new favorite subject – social studies! There are so many great strong connections between agriculture and the study of history, society, and geography. I can’t believe I’ve overlooked this humble subject for so many years!

This week I attended the Iowa Social Studies Conference to promote Iowa Agriculture Today and other IALF resources.   Teachers approached our booth without hesitation and most shared how they already include agriculture to their social studies lessons. I was pleasantly surprised by how many teachers naturally saw the connection between agriculture and social studies. During our conversations, we shared ideas and resources for linking agriculture to elementary and middle school social studies concepts and skills in the Iowa Core. There were clear ties to all content areas, from history and geography to behavioral science and economics. I suggested great books, videos, and websites to use in lessons. They shared many new ones with me too! Throughout the day I compiled a list of the resources and ideas for using them with students. Below are five of my favorites!

Five Ways to Link Agriculture to Social Studies

  1. The kid who changed the worldThe Kid Who Changed the World by Andy Andrews is a must for all elementary classrooms! This inspiring and beautifully written story describes how the lives of three famous Iowans (Norman Borlaug, Henry Wallace, and George Washington Carver) were connected and made a difference. It has strong ties to Iowa history, but is also great book demonstrate how ideas and actions can have a lasting impact.
  2. The State Agricultural Facts section of the National Ag in the Classroom website is a fantastic resources for upper-elementary students to use when studying regions of the United States. Click anywhere on the U.S. Map to learn about each state’s soil, climate, and the crops and livestock grown there. Statistics such as number of farms and farm size are given for each state. Teachers can download the fact-sheets from all 50 states for students to reference and compare.
  3. booksFarmer George Plants a Nation and Thomas Jefferson Grows a Nation by Peggy Thomas tell more about the lives of these two early presidents than most books. Both stories focus on these men as farmers, inventors, and scientists. Students will discover how their knowledge and interest in agriculture played a role their presidencies and the development of our country. Check out this video for a few other good books that link agriculture to social studies.
  4. Iowa Pathways, by Iowa Public Television is a great resources for students or teachers to learn more about agriculture’s role in Iowa History. There you will find articles, pictures, and videos about early farmers and farm life, technology, land use, famous Iowan’s in agriculture, and more. This website is a great place to get ideas for student projects with an Iowa history connection.
  5. Market to MarketMarket to Market Classroom connects high school students and teachers with stories about the business, technology and issues of agriculture. The website features segments from the popular PBS show Market to Market organized by topics relevant to history, political science, and economics.   Each learning module includes background essays, discussion questions, and research challenges. Modules such as The Role of Government in Agriculture or Commodity Markets are a perfect for helping high schoolers make real-world connections to concepts introduced in textbooks.

Now it’s your turn. How do you use agriculture to teach social studies?

– Cindy

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