Beginnings of Agriculture

Beginnings of Agriculture

Target Grade Level / Age Range:

6th Grade

Time:

Two 45-minute class periods

Purpose:

Students will compare and contrast hunting and gathering to farming, and will be able to explain this revolution.

Materials:

Suggested Companion Resources (books and websites)

Vocabulary (with definitions)

  • Migrate: move to a new place to live
  • Agriculture: the raising of crops and animals for human use
  • Domesticate: to train something to be useful to people
  • Surplus: an extra supply of something
  • Specialize: to do particular kinds of work

Background – Agricultural Connections (what would a teacher need to know to be able to teach this content)

  • The shift from hunter-gatherers to being able to settle in one place with enough resources to live began with the domestication of animals and seed.
    • This shift from hunting and gathering to organized agriculture is called the Neolithic Revolution.
    • Early people began planting the seeds they had once gathered, which helped them create the food they needed instead of searching for it. This also allowed them to stay in one location for a prolonged period of time.
    • Over time, the crops they planted evolved because they specifically chose which seeds they wanted to plant. Therefore, if one plant had noticeably better production, more palatable food, or was easier to harvest, the seeds from it would be kept for next year’s production.
      • This is called artificial selection, and mimics the same cycle as natural selection, but can accelerate the process. However, species bred through artificial selection aren’t always the most fit for life in the wild. For instance, pugs were bred through artificial selection to have short noses, and can often times have breathing problems, which would not help them in the wild.
    • Domestication of seed produced surplus crops and populations began to grow.
      • The surpluses allowed people to specialize in different types of work. This also allowed for people to become more skilled in their jobs and to increase technologies.
      • Cities began to emerge. Because there were surpluses of food, not all people had to be involved in agriculture. Other careers emerged, as well.
        • When other careers were made possible, technological breakthroughs began happening. Tools were improved, and ways of life became easier.
      • During the Neolithic Revolution, peoples from all over the globe began moving from hunting and gathering to organized agriculture. They used the resources around them to cultivate their farms.
        • Not every crop was immediately available in every part of the world. Teosinte or early corn was native to Mexico, and soybeans were native to China. Different regions would not have had access to non-native crops when agriculture first began.

Interest Approach or Motivator

Ask students how they got their breakfast this morning. Did they have to go outside and look for food, or was it in the cupboard? How would life be different if food wasn’t in our kitchens and grocery stores?

Procedures

  1. Lesson 1:
    1. Ask the students how the first humans got their food. Talk about how people were mainly hunters and gatherers early in Earth’s history.
    2. Make a Venn Diagram on the board. Tell students that they will be comparing how life changed for people when they began organized farming.
      1. Title one side of the Venn Diagram “hunting and gathering” and title the other side “farming.”
      2. Talk students through what hunter/gatherer societies were like. Ask students what kind of jobs these people had. What kinds of towns did they have? What kinds of things did they eat?
      3. Here are some options of things that may to in your class’s diagram:
        1. Hunting and Gathering:
          1. Everyone was responsible for finding food
          2. Other careers not available
          3. Cities not possible
          4. High populations could not be sustained
          5. People moved frequently to follow food sources
          6. Trade not likely, as people gathered only what they needed
        2. Both:
          1. Food was available in some way
          2. People (either some or all) had to gather food
        3. Organized Agriculture:
          1. Surpluses of food meant not everyone had to hunt or gather
          2. Careers and specialization became possible
          3. Cities emerged as people moved away from farms (could purchase food elsewhere)
          4. Populations grew and could be sustained
          5. Peoples were able to stay in one location for prolonged periods of time
          6. Trade for various goods became more prevalent
    3. Show the Making History-Agriculture video clip. Three different videos are suggested. Each has different strengths and weaknesses, but all are good videos. It might be beneficial to review the three and decide for your classroom which fits best into class content. Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xbXWWzxC1e0
      1.  Alternate video clips could include:
        1. Neolithic Agricultural Revolution: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y1FaVW1nCuc
        2. Mankind: The Story of All of Us: Birth of Farming | History: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bhzQFIZuNFY
    4. Ask students what they noticed in the video. What were some major changes from hunting and gathering to organized agriculture?
    5. Return to the Venn Diagram, and begin filling in the other side. Ask students the same types of questions you asked for the previous side (what kinds of jobs are available in farming societies, were towns present, what or how much could they eat, etc.)
    6. Ask for any last additions to the Venn Diagram. If the middle section hadn’t already been filled out, fill that in now.
    7. Lead into the idea that humans influenced the plants and animals around them.
      1. Talk about how early agriculturalists collected seeds from the best plants to plant the next year. This helped them select for certain traits.
    8. Show the class the video on the evolution of corn (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-K6ja_ZJkKk). Ask the students if teosinte or corn would have more grain or yield per plant. Talk them through why ancient people may have chosen the seeds that led to this evolution.
    9. Have a short wrap-up discussion with the class. What kinds of things happen when agriculture is organized?
    10. Tell students that they will be creating a presentation on the shift from hunting and gathering to organized agriculture. They can create a poster, PowerPoint, video, or other media for their presentation. Allow students the opportunity to give a broad overview of the Neolithic Revolution, or to focus on a key aspect, like the domestication of seeds and evolution of a crop.
      1. Tell students to be creative in their presentation and research. They could present pros and cons of agriculture pre and post-Neolithic Revolution. They could create a set of causes and effects of change during this period. They could create timelines or maps, or other visual representations of the era.
  2. Lesson 2:
    1. Have students give their presentation to the class. (Approximately 5 minutes each.)
    2. After each presentation, take one compliment and one question from the class.
    3. End class with a discussion on the array of things covered. Ask for a few key takeaways from the presentations.

Essential Files (maps, charts, pictures, or documents)

  •  N/A

Did You Know? (Ag Facts)

  • Corn originated from the Mexican plant teosinte.
  • Many other crops have evolved as humans cultivated them over centuries. These include watermelons, bananas, peaches, eggplants, and carrots.

Extension Activities (how students can carry this beyond the classroom)

  • Students could present their media at a 4-H meeting or civic group.
  • After research projects are presented, students could write a report summarizing the Neolithic Revolution and what it meant to early farmers and humans today.

Sources/Credits

Author(s) (your name)

  • Joanne Maynard
  • Chrissy Rhodes

Organization Affiliation (your organization)

  • Danbury Catholic School, Danbury, IA

National Agriculture Literacy Outcomes

  • Agriculture and the Environment:
    • T1.6-8.d: Discuss (from multiple perspectives) land and water use by various groups (i.e., ranchers, farmers, hunters, miners, recreational users, government, etc.), and how each use carries a specific set of benefits and consequences that affect people and the environment
    • T1.6-8 f. Explain and discuss why people migrate and change environments to meet their basic needs
  • Science, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics:
    • T4.6-8.c: Describe the process of development from hunting and gathering to farming
  • T4.6-8.d: Discuss how technology has changed over time to help farmers/ranchers provide more food to more people

Iowa Core Standards

  • Social Studies:
    • SS.6-8.G.3 Understand how human factors and the distribution of resources affect the development of society and the movement of populations.
    • SS.6-8.H.1: Understand historical patterns, periods of time and the relationships among these elements.
    • SS.6-8.H.4: Understand the role of individuals and groups within a society as promoters of change or the status quo.
    • SS.6-8.H.7: Understand the role of innovation on the development and interaction of societies.