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How To Begin Work In Agriculture

( Originally Published 1915 )

How to Begin Agriculture.—" But how shall I begin the work in agriculture ? " asks the teacher. I answer, since school generally begins in September and since that month is par excellence the month for selecting and gathering seeds, it would be a good plan to begin by having the pupils make collections of seeds. We must remember that the child's natural tendencies to make collections begins about the seventh year and reaches its height about the twelfth year. That being true, the greatest natural tendency to make collections we would expect to find in the grades from the second to the sixth or eighth. But the older children are also interested in gathering seeds in September and October, that is one of the home activities. It is a good plan to have one grade collect seeds, another insects, another fruits, another nuts, minerals, soils, pictures of different breeds of animals, leaves, disease spots, etc. These will be needed later in the year when, specimens are hard to find. If these things, especially insects, plant diseases, heads of grains and grasses, etc., are mounted in the Riker specimen mounts or school-made mounts of glass, strips of thin boards and passe-partout. Some teachers have correlated the work with geography by having the pupils take a large map of the United States and glue, paste or paint a sample of each product on the states where produced. These collections make an interesting way to introduce agriculture and they may become an organic part of the school equipment and illustrate things in arithmetic, geography, and elementary science. (See Farmers' Bulletin No. 586, U. S. Department of Agriculture, " Collecting and Preserving Material for the Study of Agriculture.")


Some Principles.—There are principles some of which should govern us when selecting material to teach in agriculture. Among these principles are the facts that there is more than we can hope to teach, the work should have seasonal sequence—that is, follow the dominant home interests ; we must treat local practices with respect but try to change them where we know of something better; we must not spend too much time on agriculture to the neglect of other branches or there will be a reaction against agriculture in the schools; we must make the agriculture help the other branches, hence the need for correlation work. There are yet other principles to keep in mind, one of which is that we should be sure to teach something well worth while and not waste the pupil's time on the useless. We should emphasize mostly those things which the pupil is least likely to learn at home. We should make the work advanced enough to keep the pupil a " little on the stretch," as the psychologist would say. We should be keenly conscious that there is a body of knowledge that has both cultural and educative value and that is well worth while conveying to the pupils in rural districts. This knowledge is growing faster than we are likely to find ways of conveying it.

Supplementary Reading.—For supplementary reading use State and United States bulletins. Have pupils read for the thought on the printed page. Have them make both oral and written reports. Have them learn poems relating to the agricultural subjects. Let them read those parts of books treating on the. topics under discussion. A list of over 600 Farmers' Bulletins can be obtained from your Congressman. The school library should be reasonably well filled with some of the splendid books now so rapidly appearing on every phase of rural life and agriculture.

Grammar and Composition.—Have oral discussions of field trips. Write neat reports. Save some of the better pages for " Booklets." Have pupils make booklets on the more important subjects. Pay particular attention to neatness, spelling, gram-mar, punctuation, capitalization, paragraphing, etc. Take time to call attention to new words when introduced. Have pupils write and pronounce each. If known, give the origin of the word and by analysis show its meaning.

Arithmetic.—Have the pupils or board get, for each pupil, a yard measure. They are frequently given away by merchants for advertising. Measure fields, buildings, bins, hay stacks, cribs, yards, posts, distance between posts, etc. Calculate costs, capacities, values, etc. Supplement arithmetic with problems that are coming up at home. Let each pupil bring from home one or more problems to supplement the part of the arithmetic being studied. Collect problems on farm management. Have a scrap-book and collect problems from questions asked in agricultural papers. Use figures that represent real farm conditions. (See Jessie Field's Farm Arithmetic, Burkett and Swartzel's Farm Arithmetic or Lewis's Farm Arithmetic.)

Home Geography.—Geography of the school district, latitude and its connection with the crops being grown, weather and its influence on agriculture, climate as affecting what can and cannot be grown, number of days' work in a year, profits from certain lines. Why do or do we not grow cotton, rice, tobacco, wheat, fruit, or other special crops? Discuss other groups of states as desirable places in which to farm. For advanced pupils, use farm score card and home score card to score states and homes and then other states for comparison.

History and Civics.—Study the relation of industries and inventions in the development of the country. Have pupils make, as part of booklet work, historical studies of various crops, animals, and plants in the district. Search to find origin, influence, and historic causes of crops and animals. What fruits, varieties of corn, hogs, cattle, chickens, etc., originated near or in the district. Make a study of transportation, history, problems, etc. Make a study of history and influence of good roads. Study road laws, weed laws, and land surveys, study history and influence of mounted police, State constables, etc. Study food and seed laws.

Physiology.—Study farm products as food and their relation to diet. Call attention to similarity of structures and diseases of farm animals and people. Discuss cleanliness and care of food as a hygienic matter and as a business matter. Study sanitary and hygienic relations to home and farm conditions, equipment, activities, etc.

Drawing and Writing.—Draw the whole or parts of plants, animals, and objects being studied. The aim should be to represent just what is seen by study of the actual object. Crude drawings are better than artistic pictures. Maps of the farms to show lay-off, rotations, plats of orchards, etc. Make drawings and figures or diagrams for booklets. Be sure not to accept any pages for booklets unless well written. If poorly written, have them written and rewritten until sufficiently neat and legible.

Music.—Have pupils learn songs that pertain to rural life as Queen Autumn, The Farmer, Song of the Harvest, etc.

Industrial Work.—Have pupils make corn tray or board, garden devices, handy articles, fly-traps, trap-nests, corn husk mats, baskets, etc.

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