National Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix
Farmer George: The Seeds of a Presidency
3 - 5
Three 50-minute sessions
Students will read two books and pursue a process of inquiry to profile George Washington, understanding and evaluating the personal characteristics that made him a great leader while also exploring historical and modern food systems.
Activity 1: Farmer George Plants a Nation
- Farmer George: The Seeds of a Presidency graphic organizer
- Farmer George Plants A Nation by Peggy Thomas
- Modern Marvels: World’s Largest Combine video
- How Flour is Made video
Activity 2: George Washington's Breakfast
- George Washington’s Breakfast by Jean Fritz
- Student notebooks
- Rise and Shine: What Kids Around the World Eat for Breakfast article
Activity 3: Memorializing Washington
- That’s Monumental handout
- Construction supplies including blank paper, markers, construction paper, and glue sticks
Essential Files (maps, charts, pictures, or documents)
- Rise and Shine: What Kids Around the World Eat for Breakfast
- How Flour is Made
- Modern Marvels: World's Largest Combine
farmer: a person who cultivates land or crops or raises animals
leadership: the position or function of a leader, a person who guides or directs a group
Did you know? (Ag Facts)
- George Washington was not only a military leader and the first president of the United States, he was also a farmer.1
- In 1785, Washington received a male donkey, which he called Royal Gift, from King Charles III of Spain.1
- Washington bred donkeys with horses to create mules, which he thought every farmer should have because they were stronger than horses and more agile than oxen.1
Background Agricultural Connections
Interest Approach – Engagement
- Ask students to do a quick-write on the subject of “leadership.” If your students aren’t familiar with quick-writes, explain to them that they are to spend the entire time you allocate free writing. They can discuss what it means to be a leader, give examples of public leaders, describe personal experiences in leadership roles, etc. They don’t need to worry about giving one “right” answer, but should explore the concept.
- At the conclusion of the quick-write, engage in a brief group discussion about leadership. Ask students to share what they wrote or to just relate their ideas.
- When you feel that everyone understands the concept of leadership, explain to the students that they are going to learn about George Washington and how he became America’s first president and an enduring example of leadership.
Activity 1: Farmer George Plants a Nation
- Pass out copies of the graphic organizer Farmer George: The Seeds of a Presidency, and read aloud the book Farmer George Plants a Nation. Pause every couple of pages to give students time to fill in what Washington did and what he was like on their graphic organizers. Provide as much guidance in this process as you feel your students need. (Not every accomplishment and characteristic will fit in the organizer; help students focus on the main ones.)
- When you’ve finished reading the book, direct students to do a two-minute “turn and talk” with the person next to them. They should discuss what they think was Washington’s most important accomplishment, and what personal characteristics made him so successful.
- Guide the class in a discussion about Washington’s accomplishments and characteristics. Help students extend their thinking by challenging them to identify why each accomplishment was important and what consequences could have occurred had Washington failed. Aid them in making connections between characteristics and accomplishments.
- Discuss how being a farmer contributed to Washington’s leadership ability. Explain to students that 90% of working people in the United States worked as farmers in 1790. Today, just 2% of working people are farmers. Modern technology for growing, harvesting, and processing crops has become very efficient, allowing a small number of farmers to feed a large number of people.
- Remind students of the strong mules that Washington bred (p. 23 in Farmer George Plants a Nation) and the innovative barn that he designed for treading wheat (p. 26). In Washington’s time, animals did a lot of work for farmers. Today, most of that work is done by machines that are bigger, faster, and more powerful than mules and horses. Show students the videos Modern Marvels: World’s Largest Combine and How It’s Made: Flour, and ask them to compare and contrast these modern technologies with those that Washington developed.
Activity 2: George Washington’s Breakfast
- Ask students to think about and recount what they ate for breakfast. Explain that not everyone around the world eats the same things, and today you are going to talk about what breakfast can say about a culture or a person.
- Project the article Rise and Shine: What Kids Around the World Eat for Breakfast. (If you do not have access to a projector-computer combo, consider visiting the website before class and printing off some of the pictures and information.) Show students the pictures and go over some of the breakfasts together. Point out some of the traditional foods pictured. Discuss the difference between a traditional breakfast and the type of breakfast an individual may consume on any given day. You may ask students to compare and contrast their own breakfast of choice with one or more of those shown.
- Read aloud George Washington’s Breakfast, a book about a boy who had this question: What did George Washington eat for breakfast? Note: this book is 48 pages long; pace the readings according to the specific needs of your class. Tell students that it is their job to record in their notebooks as many new facts as they can about George Washington.
- When you have finished the book, ask students to count how many new facts they learned. See who found the most facts and ask that student to share their list as a jumping-off point for discussion. List the facts on the board and spend a few minutes letting other students contribute until the list feels complete. Help with specific dates where necessary. As your class discusses the book, you might pose some of the following questions to your students:
- How has our understanding of President Washington changed with this new information?
- George Washington ate a much smaller and simpler breakfast than many of the other people who lived in this time—what might that suggest about his personality?
- What different sources did George Allen use in order to find the answer to his question?
- How can we find answers to our own questions about history? (There are more resources than just the internet.)
- Have students practice synthesizing information by writing biographical sketches of George Washington. They can refer to the facts listed on the board. Encourage them to use proper paragraphing, sentence structure, and punctuation.
Activity 3: Memorializing Washington
- Explain to students that the President needs their help! An earthquake occurred overnight and has destroyed the old Washington Monument. The President is looking for creative visionaries to make plans for a new one.
- Pass out or project a copy of the That’s Monumental handout to students. Go over the directions on the handout with students and then divide them into groups of three or four.
- Give students 15 minutes to discuss or sketch a rough draft plan for their monument. Adjust the time for this step as necessary for your students.
- Provide students with blank paper, markers, construction paper, and glue sticks. Keep the books Farmer George Plants a Nation and George Washington’s Breakfast available for reference so that students can go back to the texts for additional details.
- Allow students to work on their monument design for 20-30 minutes. Monitor their activity and redirect as necessary.
- Have each group present their monument to the class.
- Hold a secret ballot to vote on which design should become the new monument. Announce and congratulate the winner. Discuss as a class how the winning design best matched the desired criteria.
- Display all monument designs in the classroom.
We welcome your feedback! Please take a minute to tell us how to make this lesson better or to give us a few gold stars!
Have students write a letter to the President and ask what he or she eats for breakfast.
Analyze George Washington’s Breakfast, and use it to generate a class pattern for researching important questions. Use this as a lead-in for a research unit, project, or essay.
Take a virtual tour of Mount Vernon at mountvernon.org.
Provide students with information about seeds, soil, climate, companion planting, and planting zones. Have them design their own gardens to feed their families.
Make a modern version of “Hoe Cakes,” as mentioned in George Washington’s Breakfast, for students to try. Use this Johnny Cake (another term for Hoe Cakes) recipe to make and prepare on a griddle in your classroom.
Suggested Companion Resources
- Farm (Book)
- Farmer George Plants a Nation (Book)
- Thomas Jefferson Grows a Nation (Book)
- Colonial House (Multimedia)
- Modern Marvels: World's Largest Combine (Multimedia)
Agricultural Literacy Outcomes
Science, Technology, Engineering & Math
- Compare simple tools to complex modern machines used in agricultural systems to improve efficiency and reduce labor (T4.3-5.a)
Education Content Standards
K-4 History Standard 8A:The development of technological innovations, the major scientists and inventors associated with them and their social and economic effects.
Objective 4Identify and describe various technological developments to control fire, water, wind, and soil, and to utilize natural resources such as trees, coal, oil, and gas in order to satisfy the basic human needs for food, water, clothing, and shelter.
NCSS 1: Culture
Objective 2Concepts such as: similarities, differences, beliefs, values, cohesion, and diversity.
NCSS 2: Time, Continuity, and Change
Objective 3That we can learn our personal past and the past of communities, nations, and the world by means of stories, biographies, interviews, and original sources, such as documents, letters, photographs, and artifacts.
Common Core Connections
Reading: Anchor Standards
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.2Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.
Writing: Anchor Standards
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.10Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.