The Role of Domestic Agricultural Workers in New York During World War I
Suggested Teaching Instructions
The Role of Domestic Agricultural Workers in New York During World War I'
Overview: The design of the lesson is to analyze an often overlooked group in our society: agricultural workers. Specifically, we will utilize New York documents (from considerthesourceny.org) to discover the agricultural worker recruitment effort during World War I.
Goal: The primary goal is to expose students to the role of domestic agricultural work during WWI. Agricultural workers have often been overlooked and marginalized. This early 20th century example of the need for farm workers is a good entry point for students to become aware of the struggles and the value of agricultural work.
Objectives: Students will earn a greater understanding of domestic farm work in New York during the early 20th century, laying the groundwork for continued conversations about the marginalization of agricultural workers, most notably especially agricultural migrant workers in the 1960s (until today).
Investigative (Compelling) Question: What was the role of young men and women in helping the agricultural domestic war effort during World War I? What can primary documents show us about how young people in New York played a role in this often overlooked area?
Time Required: One 80 minute class period
Recommended Grade Range: 11-12
Subject: Social Studies
Standards: NYS Standard 1: History of the United States and New York
Next Gen Standards: Reading Standards
Credits: Greg Smith, Hastings High School, Hastings-on-Hudson NY
Materials Used: Group question and answer sessions and small group discussion will be prompted by questions posted on the smartboard. Students will also submit responses on Google Classroom.
Resources Used: All documents from Considerthesourceny.org
Description of Procedure:
This lesson comes into play when we are analyzing World War I. As we begin our discussion of the homefront and the war effort, we will shift the focus to the role of food supply and where our food comes from. Building off of this we will engage in discussion about the role of the farmers who essentially feed the country and the world. Discussion will ensue about how we often tend to overlook farm workers, and while it may be a type of work that possesses a quiet dignity, pay has traditionally been very low.
In order to gain a deeper understanding of farm workers and the Nation’s mission to keep farms running we will look at series of documents from New York:
1.) "New York State Boys ' Working Reserve" Pamphlet, World War I, March 1918
2.) "What the Education Department has Undertaken," Farm Cadet Program, Agriculture and Training, World War I, c. 1917
3.) Albert Wegnes' Farm Cadet Essay, World War I, 1918
4.) Charlotte Avery's Farm Cadet Essay, World War I, 1918
5.) Donald Jamieson's Farm Cadet Essay, World War I, c. 1918
6.) Elsie Blum's Farm Cadet Essay, World War I, September 12, 1918
We will read through the first two documents together, and as a class we will identify the need for agricultural workers. Students will be prompted with such questions as:
1.) Why is NY looking for young people to help on farms?
2.) What kind of agriculture does NY have?
3.) What are some pros and cons about this type of work?
4.) What type of people do you think applied to these programs?
Next we will break the class into groups of 3-4 and each group will get one of the Farm Cadet Essays listed above. As a group they will read the essay and discuss the following questions:
1.) Why is your person applying to the program?
2.) What are some attributes about themselves that make them a good worker?
3.) How enthusiastic are they? Why do you think so?
4.) What was something that surprised you about the essay?
5.)All of these kids are teenagers about your age. Do you think you would apply? Why or why not?
Finally we will engage in a role play! Groups will nominate a person to portray the role of the young potential farm cadet they read about. Groups will put together a brief 1-2 minute introduction about the person and prepare some talking points. The nominated person will take on the role of the farm cadet and I will interview each candidate separately as if they were applying to the program. I will award a winner and the winner will get extra credit points on the assignment.
To conclude the assignment we will have a collective discussion about the discoveries students made upon intimately unpacking their specific documents. Some guiding questions will be:
1.) How does giving these documents a close read add to your appreciation for farm work?
2.) How does giving these documents a close read add to your appreciation for the war effort?
3.) Why do you think that agricultural work is often overlooked and not celebrated?
4.) Later in the century farm workers will “unite” and affect some changes. What do you think they will lobby for?