How Agriculture Ended the Stone Age

How Agriculture Ended the Stone Age

Target Grade Level / Age Range:

6 th Grade

Time:

Three 40-minute class periods

Purpose:

Students will learn how human development changed throughout the Stone Age and how agriculture started the change that allowed humans to stay in one place. Students will also design a village that incorporates environmental attributes (freshwater and vegetation) that are needed to support a community.

Materials:

  • Computer
  • Projector
  • Activity 1:
    • Blankets
    • Objects to build a Stone Age Structure
  • Activity 2:
    • A large white sheet of paper to hang up on the wall
    • Acrylic paint (for cavemen drawings)
  • Activity 3:
    • Drawing paper/grid paper OR
    • Cardboard
    • Newspaper, Aluminum
    • Rocks
    • Grass
    • Twigs
    • Alternative: Introduce the activity and have students come up with a list of materials and have them bring it from home

Suggested Companion Resources

Vocabulary with Definitions 

  • Migrate: move to a new place to live
  • Agriculture: the raising of crops and animals for human use. Agriculture ended the hunting and gathering period. It allowed humans to live in one place and not have to roam the land
  • Domesticate: to train something to be useful to people
  • Surplus: an extra supply of something
  • Specialize: to do particular kinds of work
  • Neolithic Age: New Stone Age
  • Paleolithic Age: The Old Stone Age that lasted until 10,000 B.C.

Background – Agricultural Connections

The Stone Age was a time in history when early humans used tools and weapons made from stone. It lasted from when the first stone tools were made by our ancestors about 3.4 million years ago, until the introduction of metal tools a few thousand years ago. The Stone Age is divided into three periods and the exact dates for each period vary across the world. The Old Stone (Paleolithic) Age lasted from the first use of stones until the end of the last Ice Age. The Middle Stone (Mesolithic) Age lasted from the end of the last Ice Age until the start of farming. The New Stone (Neolithic) Age lasted from the start of farming until the first use of metal. The Neolithic era started after a prolonged period of hunting and gathering. In order for a society to survive the individuals needed to find a location that best fulfilled the needs of the group (food, clothing, and shelter). Crops were introduced intentionally or unintentionally at first and provided a stable food source for the group. After the establishment of the village, specialization occurred as people had a greater amount of free time since hunting and gathering was no longer the primary source for food production. As a surplus of food stores continued, specialization led to improvements in hygiene, health, and medicine resulting in longer life expectancies and population growth. The term lithic comes from the Ancient Greek word for stone or rock.

Interest Approach or Motivator

Before the movie clip, tell students to make an observation of the family (clothing, tools, hair, actions, etc.) and keep notes on their observations. They will discuss their observations after the video is over.

Show the class a little bit of the movie clip, The Croods https://youtu.be/S8twVZf2XYs or another movie that is based in prehistoric times.

Ask students:

  1. What are some observations you made while watching the video clip?
  2. What were the Croods doing? (Waking up from sleeping for 3 days and then getting ready to go hunting)
  3. What were they wearing? (animal skins) How do you think they got their clothing? (killed animals and processed their skins)
  4. Where did they live? (In a cave or under a rock)
  5. What were some challenges they had to overcome? (Finding food and keeping it away from other animals who were in search of food too)
  6. What is different from the Croods time period to now? (Agriculture happened which allowed humans to grow a reliable food source, move to an area that has plenty of resources and fertile land, and allowed humans to live in one place by building homes.)
  7. Ask students why Iowa has become one of the leading agricultural producing regions of the world? (Because it has an environment rich in natural resources and very fertile land that is used to grow crops and has an environment suitable for growing crops)

Procedures

Day 1:

  1. Ask the students, “If you were a Paleolithic man/woman with a family group of hunter and gatherers, how would your life be improved?”
  2. Create a chart of all of the needs of the family group and how those needs are fulfilled
    1. Food (fulfilled by hunting and gathering)
    2. Clothing (fulfilled by hunting and gathering)
    3. Shelter (fulfilled by hunting and gathering)
  3. Activity 1: Inform students that they are going to act like they are living in the Stone Age. Using the furniture/desks in the classroom allow them to rearrange the desks to create a hut like the Paleolithic human did. Bring in blankets to act like animal hide and have the students act like they are cavemen.
  4. Activity 2: Tape a big piece of paper up on a wall and allow students to finger paint like they are painting a cave mural. Have them paint a memory or something from a movie. They will then share with the class what they drew and how it is represented in their painting.

  Day 2:

  1. Create a new list of what materials or situations could improve your life if you didn’t have to rely on only hunting and gathering
    1. Having a secure food source (agriculture production)
    2. Living in one place and having a set shelter where you do not have to move around
    3. Living in an environment that has plenty of resources and a suitable living environment
  2. What materials would you need access to in order to make these improvements
    1. Need freshwater (probably beside a river/ creek/ freshwater lake)
    2. Need lumber resources for construction purposes
    3. Need available stones to create enclosures for livestock and for construction purpose
    4. Need an open plot of land and need seeds to grow plants and food
  3. Activity 3: Inform students that they are to create a design for the ideal location for a settlement and the necessary buildings and enclosures to ensure a successful community. They will also create a list that categorizes all of the buildings and materials needed for the success of the community. Have them use the information they have learned to create the design. You can either have them draw a map of the village and community or they can physically build it with resources you provide such as cardboard, newspaper, aluminum, sticks, rocks, and dirt. You could also explain the activity and have students think of an idea and then bring in resources from home build.
  4. Allow students time to build their villages (When students are building their village look for these observations):
    1. What environment or where in the United States did they decide to set up a community?
    2. What type of living can be supported by the environment?
    3. Are they building their homestead near a water source or wooded area for resources?
    4. Designs should include a plot to grow crops or raise livestock and they should identify what their food source is?
    5. Does their location in the U.S. and its climate support the crops they chose to grow? (i.e. oranges won’t grow in Michigan because it is too cold) Will their livestock survive in that climate? (i.e. some cattle like Brahman are best suited for warm climates like Texas)
    6. How do they protect themselves from predators?
    7. Allow students to research ideas on the internet.

Day 3:

  1. Once each student has built their community, have students show their designs to the class. (Approximately 5 minutes each.) Have them explain their reasoning for how they decided to construct their village and have them answer the questions above.
  2. After each presentation, ask the rest of the class to give one compliment and one question to the group that is presenting.
  3. End class with a discussion on the array of things covered. Ask for a few key takeaways from the presentations.

Essential Files

  • World map
  • Map of the United States

Did You Know?

  • First evidence of agriculture is in Northern Israel (Galilee region) approximately 23,000 years.
  • Oldest human settlement occurred in the Asian country of Syria about 13,000 years ago.
  • Evidence of agriculture (intentionally raising food crops) is about 10,000 years older than the oldest known human settlement.

Extension Activities

  • Have students use the world map to decide what cities are located in the best locations and be able to defend their choice with validations that they learned in the past lesson.

Sources/Credits 

Authors

Hannah Pagel and Jim Obermeier

Organization Affiliation

Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation     
Southwest Valley Middle School, Villisca, Iowa

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
    • T1.6-8 h. Recognize the factors of an agricultural system which determine its sustainability
  • 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.6.14. Explain how groups form in our society, and how groups, as well as the individuals within those groups, can influence each other.
    • SS.6.17. Analyze and explain the cultural, physical, and environmental characteristics of places and regions and how this affects the life of the people who live there
    • SS.6.18. Explain how changes in transportation, communication, and technology influence the movement of people, goods, and ideas in various countries.
    • SS.6.17. Analyze and explain the cultural, physical, and environmental characteristics of places and regions and how this affects the life of the people who live there
    • SS.6.19. Explain how global changes in population distribution patterns affect changes in land use in particular countries or regions.
    • SS.6.20. Analyze connections among historical events and developments in various geographic and cultural contexts.  
    • SS.6.22. Explain multiple causes and effects of events and developments in the past.
    • SS.6.23. Compare Iowa’s geography, natural resources and climate to other regions of the world.

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