Student Activities

Agriculture and Inventions

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Grade Level:
Middle School: Sixth Grade through Eighth Grade
Social Studies


In this "Agriculture and Inventions" activity, students will research agricultural inventions and describe their impacts on agriculture.  

For homesteaders, life on the Plains was rough and hard. Everyone had to pitch in to help the family survive. The men plowed, planted, and harvested the crops.

They took the grain to the nearest mill, which could take several days of traveling. The women took care of the house and the garden. They often sold butter and eggs to supplement the family income. This money paid for the extras the family could not otherwise afford. Children helped out wherever they were needed. They might gather buffalo or cow chips for fuel, herd the animals, help in the fields, or any other task that needed to be done.

Helping out one's neighbor was common place on the plains. Settlers held gatherings or bees. Neighbors might help plow a field, build a barn or house, or husk the corn. These bees were opportunities for homesteaders to help each other and socialize at the same time.

Hardships abounded on the prairie. Homesteaders faced many difficulties while living on the Great Plains. Isolation and loneliness created some of the most difficult moments especially for women who seldom left their homesteads.

The climate of the plains was harsh to homesteaders. One year a homesteader might face a drought while the next year a flood might ruin every hope of an abundant crop. Prairie fires and grasshopper invasions were also constant threats.

Many homesteaders could not handle the overwhelming obstacles in their path. Those who came to homestead with the lure of cheap lands left, "busted and disgusted" at the hard life on the prairie. In several areas almost half the homesteaders left. Others stayed to "tough it out."

At one time or another many homesteaders had to face making the decision to stay on their homestead or head back east. There is no doubt that life was hard. For many the cost of staying was too high.


Ask students what technologies make their lives easier. Why was each invented?

Write the following quotation on the board. Have students explain the meaning: "Wherever a farm may be located, or whatever may be its production, fence, fence, and fence is the first, the intermediate, and the last consideration in the whole routine of the operations of the farm." — S. Edwards Todd, The Young Farmer's Manual, 1860

Then, have students analyze the advertisement in the materials section. How did the invention of barbed wire alter farming on homesteads?



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