National Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix
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Cattle in California History
3 - 5
One or two, 50-minute sessions
Students will map the history of cattle migrating to California with early explorers and settlers and describe how cattle have been important to people throughout different times in history.
- World map that can be projected onto a screen
- Student reading: Cattle in California History
- Student activity sheet: Cattle in California History
Essential Files (maps, charts, pictures, or documents)
- Student Reading- Cattle in California History
- New York Steak and Green Beans Recipe (optional)
- Homes on the Range- An Introduction to California Rangelands (Optional)
- Student Worksheet- Cattle in California History
beef cattle: cattle raised primarily for their meat
auroch: a wild Eurasion ox, the ancestor of domestic cattle
cattle drive: the process of moving a herd of cattle from one place to another, usually moved and herded by cowboys on horses
longhorn cattle: a breed of cattle known for its horns which can extend several feet
Did you know? (Ag Facts)
- The era of cattle drives began just after the civil war.1
- The earliest cattle drives were from Texas to California where the demand for cattle was high due to the Gold Rush.1
- A cow's stomach has four chambers, this allows cattle to gain nutrients from eating grass.2
Background Agricultural Connections
Interest Approach – Engagement
- Make a list on the board of various items produced by beef cattle. Ideas include: hamburger, steak, roast beef, leather, and barbecued ribs.
- Ask the students what all of these items have in common. If needed, provide additional clues until they recognize that each item is produced by beef cattle.
- Tell the students that cattle are not native to California. Ask the students if they know how and when cattle were brought to California. Inform the students that today they will be learning about how and when cattle first came to California.
- Instruct students to read the Cattle in California History student reading. You can also read it as a class depending upon the reading level of your students. Students should highlight text regarding dates, places, and people involved in the migration of cattle. Paragraphs are numbered for easy reference. Display a world map on your whiteboard or screen and point out locations that are important in the text. You can also have student volunteers place sticky notes on the display map to help the class identify different regions as they read about them.
- Distribute the Cattle in California activity sheet to students and have them work in pairs. Instruct them to discuss important information from the reading and complete the questions.
- After students have completed the assignment, discuss their understanding of why cattle have been important to people throughout history and today.
- Show students the video, New York Steak and Green Beens which demonstrates the preparation of a healthy recipe with beef.
- Prepare a recipe using beef for your students.
Concept Elaboration and Evaluation:
After conducting these activities, summarize the following key points:
- Cattle are not native to California, they were brought there for their beef and tallow.
- Beef provides zinc, iron, and protein to our diets.
- Many events in the history of California, particularly the gold rush, influenced the cattle industry and helped it grow and expand.
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!
Suggested Companion Resources
- 'Til the Cows Come Home (Book)
- Beef Cattle in the Story of Agriculture (Book)
- Cattle Kids: A Year On the Western Trail (Book)
- Levi's Lost Calf (Book)
- The Scrambled States of America (Book)
- Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States (Poster, Map, Infographic)
- Bon a la Beef Videos (Multimedia)
- Historical Timeline (Multimedia)
- Into the Outdoors: Beef Farming (Multimedia)
- Into the Outdoors: Cattle in the Environment (Multimedia)
- Riding the Range on a Utah Cattle Drive (Multimedia)
Agricultural Literacy Outcomes
Culture, Society, Economy & Geography
- Understand the agricultural history of an individual’s specific community and/or state (T5.3-5.f)
Education Content Standards
K-4 Geography Standard 17: How to apply geography to interpret the past.
Objective 1Geographic contexts (the human and physical characteristics of places and environments) are the settings for events in the past.
Objective 2Places, regions, and environments change over time.
K-4 Geography Standard 5: That people create regions to interpret Earth's complexity.
Objective 1Regions are areas of Earth's surface with unifying physical and/or human characteristics.
NCSS 2: Time, Continuity, and Change
Objective 1The study of the past is the story of communities, nations, and the world.
Objective 4Key people, events, and places associated with the history of the community, nation, and world.
NCSS 3: People, Places, and Environments
Objective 3Physical and human characteristics of the school, community, state, and region, and the interactions of people in these places with the environment.
Objective 4Factors influencing various community, state, and regional patterns of human settlement, such as the availability of land and water, and places for people to live.
Objective 6Cultural patterns and their interactions within and across places, such as migration and settlement, changes in customs or ideas, and in the ways people make a living.
Objective 7Benefits and problems resulting from the discovery and use of resources.
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.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.1Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.2Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.