Lesson Plan 3

History Center Excursion

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The photographs and biographical information about Beulah Usher found on this Website are recommended for grades 4-8. This web activity can be used to teach or supplement units on:

  1. Early 20th century history
  2. General historical inquiry process

The activities are designed to help students understand, interpret and appreciate early farming practices and the life of Beulah Usher who lived in Cedar Rapids, Iowa during the first half of the 20th century.

Activities require students to work as museum curators. They will interpret photographs and biographical information to discover the story these resources contain.

Following the scientific method, students will start by forming hypotheses or "guesses" about the meaning of an object. Their hypotheses will then be tested by consulting sources of evidence that either confirm or disprove their "guesses."

For each source, suggested questions are provided on the classroom activities page. These can be adapted and applied as the teacher chooses.

Explore the following teaching and learning resources on Beulah Usher.

  • Classroom Activities - Lesson ideas
  • Using Primary Sources - Definition of primary sources and the liabilities and assets of using them as teaching resources
  • Field Trip Guide - Rationale for field trips and activity suggestions for preparing students before, during and following field explorations outside the classroom
  • National Standards - Connections to national standards in the areas of history and literacy
  • Media Center
  • For Students - Step by step procedures student curators will follow when interpreting the historical resources related to Beulah Usher.

Classroom Activities

Be A Curator

Interpreting Biographical Information on Beulah Usher

  1. Review the "Be a Curator" activities. Students can work in pairs at a computer to read the The Biographical Information about Beulah Usher.
  2. Have students review the photos. Guided research questions could include:
    1. Where was Beulah Usher born?
    2. What did Beulah Usher enjoy doing on the farm?
    3. Why do you think she did these activities as a child?
      Have students compose two or three additional research questions.
  3. Understanding the following key vocabulary words and concepts will be significant to understanding the life of Beulah Usher:
    1. annual farm cycle
    2. harrow
    3. homestead
    4. horse-powered farm
    5. livery stable
    6. milliner
    7. soapstone
    8. threshing machine
  4. Ask students to explore photos, narrative describing early farming in Iowa, and Web resources in the Media Center and discuss which farming tasks were completed during each season of the year. Using an LCD projector display some of the images on a large screen to prompt discussion.
  5. After exploring information about early farming, students can work in pairs to complete a chart comparing the characteristics of pioneer farming in 1850, the horse-powered farm of 1900 and farming today.
  6. As students conduct their research the following large group discussion questions will help to focus their work:
    1. What kind of machines were used by farmers in the early twentieth century?
    2. How did the manual farm labor of 1900 compare with that of farming today?
    3. What was the role of the workhorse in farming in 1900?
    4. In 1900 when horses were used on the farm, what jobs were done in each season--spring, summer, fall, and winter?
    5. What farm jobs are done during each season today?

As students work with partners to complete the chart activity, inferring, analyzing and deduction will occur. These collaborative learning activities provide an opportunity for give and take discussion of findings and sharing of research responsibilities.

The collaboration rubrics may help when evaluating this activity.

  1. Using an LCD projector display the US Department of Agriculture's timeline of American agriculture and discuss the dramatic progress of agricultural equipment over the last 300 years. Use the timeline as a resource when students work with a partner to complete the Web-based Which Came First Quiz.

Extension Activities

As an extension of their research on the life of Beulah Usher, pose the following questions to the class: If Beulah was your age and lived in your neighborhood, how would her life be different? From what you read about her life as a farmer and student and from what you observe from the photographs of her life, what school and community activities would she be interested in today?

Field Trips

The Field Trip Guide provides learning activities to complete before your class visits the History Center and activities for your class to complete after visiting the History Center.

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