National Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix
Taming the Wild Aurochs
6 - 8
Students will read about and research the domestication of animals to better understand why and how they are raised on a farm. They will create a timeline of animal domestication.
- Student Worksheets A, B, & C, 1 per student
- Internet access for student research
Essential Files (maps, charts, pictures, or documents)
auroch: an extinct bovine mammal of northern Africa, Europe and western Asia, believed to be the forerunner of domestic cattle
breed: a group of animals descending from a common ancestry and possessing certain common characteristics which distinguish it from any other group
descendant: a person born into a particular family
domesticated animal: an animal that has many of its needs provided by humans
fertilizer: any of a large number of natural and synthetic materials, including manure and nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium compounds, spread on or worked into soil to increase its capacity to support plant growth
herd: a group of cattle or other domestic animals of a single kind that are kept together for a specific use
manure: animal dung, compost or other decomposed organic material used to fertilize soil
predators: animals that live by preying on others
selective breeding: selecting certain individual animals to be the parents of the next generation, based on desired characteristics
wild animal: an animal that provides for its own food, shelter, and other needs
Did you know? (Ag Facts)
- The domestication of farm animals dates back to the Neolithic period 9000 years ago.1
- The domesticated dog is a subspecies of the gray wolf. It has been one of the most widely kept working and companion animals in human history.2
- Civilizations with domesticated plants and animals generally had more power and were able to spread their cultures and languages.3
Background Agricultural Connections
Interest Approach – Engagement
- Ask students to brainstorm and make a list of items which are necessary for survival. Encourage students to list only the very basic items that provide food, clothing, water, and shelter.
- Next, identify the source of each of these necessities. Natural resources provide our water supply, but likely in every other case, agriculture or farming provides all others. (food to eat, timber to build houses, etc.)
- Ask students if our society has always relied on agriculture to provide our necessities of life. (No) Use student comments and ideas to guide your discussion. Point out that the implementation of farming changed the nature and practices of ancient civilizations.
Activity 1: Hunting and Gathering
- Explain to your students that before human civilizations began to farm their land, all people were "hunter gatherers." Ask students to use the context clues found in these words to describe what a hunter gatherer is.
- Use the following questions to help students visualize and understand a hunter gatherer society:
- How would a civilization's geographic location have affected the availability of food?
- The climate and location of their civilization would indicate what food (from both plants and animals) was available. For example, if they lived near the sea, they may have fished. If they lived in the desert, they would have less available food than a civilization in a forested area with more moisture.
- Did hunter gatherers live in one place for long periods of time?
- No. Civilizations followed their source of food. When the resources in one area became depleted, they packed up and moved to the next area. These people were called nomads.
- What plant-based food would hunter gathers have consumed?
- Any edible plant that grew naturally in their surroundings. This could have included berries and fruits or edible plant roots. Generally, the more tropical the climate, the more they could rely on plant-based foods.
- What kind of animals did they hunt?
- It varied depending on the location. In general, they hunted wild game no larger than a deer or wild boar. Rabbits, and various bird species were also common.
- Were there gender roles in these societies?
- Yes, the women primarily did the gathering and the cooking. The men did the hunting.
- Could hunter gatherer societies consume a diet with a wide variety of foods? Did their diet change from season to season.
- No, compared to the average diet today, hunter gatherers consumed only a small variety of foods depending on their location. Yes, their diets changed with the seasons as food was available.
- How would a civilization's geographic location have affected the availability of food?
Activity 2: Domestication Timeline
- Read and discuss the vocabulary words as well as the information contained the Background Agricultural Connections portion of the lesson.
- With your students, compare and contrast the characteristics of domestic animals and wild animals. Draw a line down the center of your board to list contrasting characteristics.
- Behavior: Wild animals do not want to be around humans. Domestic animals are more tame.
- Reproduction: Wild animals reproduce by the principle of "survival of the fittest." The reproduction of domestic animals is controlled by their caretaker who identifies ideal characteristics they would like in their offspring and selectively breeds animals with those characteristics.
- Feed: Wild animals provide their own subsistence. Predators must hunt their own food, and foragers move to find suitable lands for grazing. Domestic animals rely on their caretaker to provide their feed.
- Appearance: Domestic animals develop a different appearance than their wild ancestors. This takes place due to selective breeding. (For example a wild boar and domestic farm pig look similar in structure, but have changed significantly in domestication) Wild animals maintain the characteristics needed for survival.
- Discuss the interdependence of humans and animals over the centuries. Why did some animals become domesticated while others did not?
- Optional: To further teach and illustrate this principle, show the video clip Guns, Germs and Steel (Part 5). The first four minutes of the video discusses the ideal characteristics for domesticated farm animals. The second half of the video clip discusses various civilizations around the world and the evidence of early farming practices.
- Hand out Student Worksheets A and B. Instruct students to read the information on Student Worksheet A and use it to complete Student Worksheet B.
- Each student will select one of the domesticated animals mentioned on Student Worksheet A and use online search engines and library references to research the animal’s history and use today.
- Hand out Student Worksheet C.
- Discuss the meanings of BC and AD in reference to ancient history. Discuss the fact that the 1990s took place in the 20th Century. Caution students to remember this as they complete the timeline on Student Worksheet C.
- Have the students use resource materials and online searches to find agricultural or historical events that were happening during the time period when each of the animals listed on the worksheet was being domesticated. Students should place these events on the timeline.
- On a world map, ask students to locate the places listed on Student Worksheet A where the following animals may have first been domesticated: sheep and goats; cattle; rabbits.
- As students complete the worksheet, ask them to research online what animals were domesticated on the North American continent pre-Columbus and what animals were later brought by European explorers and settlers.
Activity 3: Farming
- Tie the lesson together by discussing and further comparing the benefits our society today enjoys due to farming versus those found though hunting and gathering. Use the following key points to direct the discussion:
- Farming allows for a greater abundance of food. More food can be farmed on a given plot of land than could grow naturally.
- Our food supply has a much greater variety of foods and food groups to obtain the nutrients we need and to enjoy the food we eat as well.
- Our food supply is more stable and sustainable. While crop failures can occur in modern farming, they are less likely than they would be if we were relying on nature to provide our food.
- The location of our communities and cities does not rely upon the local food sources. In most cases, food is grown in the ideal climate and region, then shipped all over the country and even world. Populations can have permanent residence rather than living as nomads.
Concept Elaboration and Evaluation
After conducting these activities, review and summarize the following key concepts:
- Civilizations changed in many ways as farming practices replaced hunting and gathering.
- The use of various plants and animals for food, clothing, shelter, and fuel changed through time. Farming practices increased after the European settlement of the United States.
- There are many advantages to farming rather than hunting and gathering. Farming provides a more abundant and stable food supply as well as a much larger variety of foods.
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!
- Stone Age Farmers Beside the Sea: Scotland's Prehistoric Villag eof Skara Brae, by Caroline Arnold.
- Eyewitness: Horse, by Juliet Clutton-Brock.
- Mystery of the Lascaux Cave, by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent.
- Ancient Agriculture: From Foraging to Farming, by Michael and Mary B. Woods
- Ancient Agricultural Technology: From Sickles to Plows, by Michael and Mary B. Woods.
Suggested Companion Resources
- The Shepherd's Trail (Book)
- From Fiber to Fabric... Wool's a Natural (Multimedia)
- Guns, Germs, and Steel (Multimedia)
- Sheep 101 (Website)
Agricultural Literacy Outcomes
Agriculture and the Environment
- Compare and contrast the advantages and disadvantages involved when converting natural ecosystems to agricultural ecosystems (T1.6-8.a)
Plants and Animals for Food, Fiber & Energy
- Describe the differences in plants and animals used for food, clothing, shelter, and fuel before and after European settlement of the United States (T2.6-8.a)
Science, Technology, Engineering & Math
- Describe the process of development from hunting and gathering to farming (T4.6-8.c)
Education Content Standards
Animal Systems Career Pathway
AS.01.01Evaluate the development and implications of animal origin, domestication and distribution on production practices and the environment.
Common Core Connections
Reading: Anchor Standards
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.1Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.10Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.3Analyze how and why individuals, events, or ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.
Speaking and Listening: Anchor Standards
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.1Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.5Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information and enhance understanding of presentations.
Writing: Anchor Standards
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.8Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.9Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.