Target Grade Level / Age Range

2nd Grade


Two 30-minute lessons


Students will discover agricultural innovators who have connections to Iowa and explain how they made an impact in agriculture.


  • Condensed documents of the Web Resources for the following Iowa agriculture innovators:
    • Ada Hayden
    • George Washington Carver
    • Henry A. Wallace
    • Norman Borlaug
    • John Froelich
    • Jessie Field Shambaugh
    • Griffith Buck
  •   Student Fact Sheets
  • Pencil
  • Crayons/markers
  • Iowa Map

Suggested Companion Resources (books and websites)


  • Innovator: a person who introduces new methods, ideas, or products
  • Agriculture: the science or practice of farming, including cultivation of the soil for the growing of crops and the rearing of animals to provide food, wool, and other products

Background – Agricultural Connections

Ada Hayden – Born and raised in Ames, Iowa, Ada Hayden became interested in prairie land. She wanted to work to help protect the prairie land because at the time there were not any state programs that preserved prairie land. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Iowa State University then went on to earn her Ph.D. in philosophy. In her career, she traveled around the state, visiting different prairies that remained in the state. Ada Hayden spent her career as an assistant professor of botany from 1919 to 1950. During her career, she added more than 40,000 specimens to the herbarium. After Ada died in 1950, the state bought 22 prairies and named one after her, the Ada Hayden State Preserve in Howard County, Iowa.

George Washington Carver – George Washington Carver was a scientist and educator. He was born in 1865 in Missouri, and he attended Iowa State University to study botany. He was the first African American student at Iowa State University. He earned his bachelor’s degree in science and continued his education at Iowa State University. Eventually, he earned his master’s degree. He began his professional career as a professor at Iowa State University. Then he was contacted by Booker T. Washington to teach at a college in Tuskegee, Alabama. George accepted and taught at Tuskegee Institute. George Washington Carver is best known for his work with crop rotation and peanuts. He found that rotating crops in the south like cotton with crops like sweet potatoes and soybeans replenished the soil. George also found that peanuts helped reduce another problem that farmers were facing like the boll weevil. He introduced hundreds of new peanut products, including cooking oils, dyes for clothing, plastics, fuel for cars, and peanut butter.

Henry A. Wallace – Henry Wallace, born in 1888 on a farm in Adair County, Iowa, was instrumental to agriculture. He was an editor, geneticist, cabinet officer, and Vice President of the United States. He attended Iowa State College and studied agriculture. After graduation, he worked as a reporter and editor at Wallaces’ Farmer. Henry Wallace also had an interest in corn breeding. He began experiments where he crossed two lines of hybrid corn. He and his wife started a business, Pioneer Hi-Bred, the world’s first company to develop, grow, and sell hybrid seed.

Norman Borlaug – Norman Borlaug, known as the Father of the Green Revolution, was born in 1914 in Cresco, Iowa. He studied forestry at the University of Minnesota and went to earn his Master of Science degree and a Ph.D. in plant pathology and genetics. He worked as a microbiologist at DuPont. Soon he learned that the Mexican government was interested in establishing a Cooperative Wheat Research and Production Program. He spent his first ten years in Mexico developing disease-resistant strains of wheat. Then he introduced dwarfing in his hybrids to produce a thicker, shorter stem to support the wheat from collapsing under the weight of its grain. When Mexican farmers used Borlaug’s wheat varieties, it resulted in a 6x yield increase. The seeds were also sent to India and Pakistan, where farmers were able to become self-sufficient in wheat production. Norman began teaching at Texas A&M University, where he also conducted research. He received top honors during his career, including the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 and the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977.

John Froelich – John Froelich was the inventor of the first internal-combustion motor. He was born in Girard, Iowa. During his career, he operated a grain elevator and threshing service. He and his crew used steam-powered threshers throughout Iowa and the Dakotas. This machine was heavy, hard to transport, and very dangerous. One spark from the broiler could cause the whole field to set fire. He became inventive and mounted a one-cylinder gasoline engine on his tractor and tested it out! It worked! The new engine only used 26 gallons of gas and could thresh more than one thousand bushels of grain every day without having to worry about setting fire to the field. In 1894, Froelich and eight investors formed the Waterloo Gasoline Traction Engine Company. In 1918, the John Deere plow-manufacturing company bought John’s business for $2.35 million.

Jessie Field Shambaugh – Jessie Field Shambaugh is an educator and the founder of 4-H. She was born near Shenandoah, Iowa in 1917. She was a teacher in Page County and organized the boys’ and girls’ clubs that became the model for 4-H. The boys studied farm management, agronomy, livestock and corn judging. The girls learned about cooking, sewing, interior decoration, gardening, first aid, and child care. She is best remembered for her work in establishing clubs that grew into one of the greatest youth movements in the 20th century. She also created a significant model for how to teach at rural schools.

Interest Approach or Motivator

Can you think of a famous person? What are they famous for? Some famous people are innovators. An innovator is someone who introduces new methods, ideas, or products.  

If we look at agriculture or farming, there are many people who are famous for the work they have done or are doing in agriculture. Today, you are going to learn about an innovator in agriculture. The person you will read about has a connection to Iowa.


Day 1:

  1. Put students into six groups of three or four, depending on the number of students in the class.
  2. Have each group select an innovator from the list above.
  3. Each student in the group will have a job. Decide if the students will select their own job or if the jobs will be assigned. Walk around the room to assess how each group is working together.
    1. Student jobs include:
      1. Discussion Leader – This student will lead the group discussion about the innovator as they gather research.
      2. Note Taker – This student will circle words the group does not know, highlight phrases that will be included on the poster, and underline context clues.
      3. Recorder – This student will write the information on the fact sheet from the reading.
  4. Give each group two copies of their innovator’s biography (one for the note taker and one for the group to read from). Cut the pages of the Biographies document into half sheets of paper. Instruct the note takers to write on the biography sheet while the group is reading. The students should share the reading according to the preference of the instructor, either by splitting up the reading according to the number of students in the group or in some other way the instructor prefers.
    1. Circle words they don’t know.
    2. Highlight phrases that answer questions that will be included on their fact sheet.
    3. Underline context clues.
  5. After reading, each group will answer the following questions about their innovator.
    1. Name of Innovator
    2. Where is he/she from, or what is their connection to Iowa?
    3. When did he/she live?
    4. What was his/her educational background? What did he/she study?
    5. What did they do to help agriculture? What are they famous for?
    6. Any other interesting facts about your innovator?
    7. Draw a picture of your innovator.

Day 2:

  1. Once all groups are finished with their poster and research, have them present their fact sheet and what they learned about their innovator.
    1. Leave time for students to ask additional questions.
  2. Create a ‘pin’ on the map where each Iowa innovator was from or did their work.
    1. This can be a large shared map at the front of the classroom with real pins, or it can be a digital, projected map that you can drop pins onto.

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

Did You Know? (Ag facts)

  • The Iowa State University herbarium (room housing a collection of dried plants) was named the Ada Hayden Herbarium in honor of its former curator.
  • George Washington Carver was the first African American student to enroll at Iowa State University.
  • In 1999, Henry A. Wallace’s company, Pioneer Hi-Bred, was acquired by DuPont corporation for $10 billion.
  • Norman Borlaug is known as the “Father of the Green Revolution.”
  • John Froelich invented the first internal-combustion traction motor or tractor.
  • Jessie Field Shambaugh’s 4-H organization stands for head, hand, heart, health.
  • Griffith Buck worked at Iowa State University and created a disease-resistant variety of rose.

Extension Activities

  • Research current agricultural innovators.



Lynn Kluesner

Laura Mincks

Organization Affiliation

Beckman Catholic Schools

Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation 

Agriculture Literacy Outcomes

  • T3.K-2. b Recognize that agriculture provides our most basic necessities:  food, fiber (fabric or clothing), energy and shelter.

Iowa Core Standards

  • SS.2.20 Determine the influence of particular individuals and groups who have shaped significant historical change.


  • RI.2.4 (DOK2) Determine the meaning of words and phrases in a text relevant to a grade 2 topic or subject area.
  • EE.RI.2.3: Identify individuals, events, or details in an informational text.
  • EE.R1.2.10: Actively engage in shared reading of informational text including history/SS, science, and technical texts.
  • EE.W.2.7: Participate in shared research and writing projects.
  • EE.RI.3.10 Demonstrate understanding of text while actively engaged in shared reading of history/social studies, science, and technical texts.

Creative Commons License

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