World War I: Farm Cadet Program
Suggested Teaching Instructions
Students can answer the questions on Consider the Source, or on the attached Google Docs.
Farm Cadet Essay: Focus and Discussion Questions: https://docs.google.com/document/d/16f0ZOA8zz60ytC9bg3SZh17qmpAaWoNEp1XuUl3e_6Y/edit?usp=sharing
Document 1: Focus and Discussion Questions: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1lcSSP7m_fh75b7JDET_8t4z6BgEEwSLlgwoVRSKv_3A/edit?usp=sharing
Document 2: Focus and Discussion Questions: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1DTjFOPYtceA7xRMCmjm_hCx8I8H28MdBZqinY0SEDRY/edit?usp=sharing
Culminating Paragraph: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1hTOo3l_SiisOSsp-oRJCDKApEcfstIOuM2YZgE-ZaaA/edit?usp=sharing
Title: World War I Farm Cadet Program
Historical Context: As World War I was raging, the United States faced a labor shortage within the country. Many attempts were made to address the labor shortage, of the most notable, was the Farm Cadet Program. In 1917, the New York State Education Department began a program that allowed students between the ages of 16 and 18 in good academic standing to sign up and become Farm Cadets. Many teens jumped at the chance to become a Farm Cadet. Becomming a farm cadet meant the teen would leave their home and go live and work on a farm in order to fill the role vacated by an active soldier. Students would work on farms from April to September and finish off their work with an essay of their experiences.
Overview: Students will analyze New York State government documents to understand the goals and motivations of the New York State Boys’ Working Reserve program that was created during World War I. Then students will read the essay of a boy or girl who participated in the program to understand what the job was like and why he or she found it valuable for the war effort.
Goal: Students will learn about some aspects of everyday life for Americans, particularly high school students, during World War I and how they were encouraged to support the war effort.
Objectives: Students will understand why the New York State Boys’ Working Reserve was created and what types of work farm cadets did while participating in the program.
Investigative (Compelling) Question: How could high school age students contribute to the war effort during World War I?
Two 40 minute class periods
Recommended Grade Range
Subject: Social Studies
11.6 c World War I had important social, political, and economic effects on American society.
Credits: Robert F. Pickup
-Document 1: Focus and Discussion Questions
-Document 2: Focus and Discussion Questions
-Farm Cadet Essay: Focus and Discussion Questions
-Governor Whitman’s Proclamation about the New York State Boys Working Reserve, March 14, 1918
-“New York State Boys’ Working Reserve” Pamphlet, World War I, March 1918
-Farm Cadet Essays:
Description of Procedure:
Begin class with a brainstorm of how civilians could contribute to the war effort during World War I. (This should be done after students have read, watched a video, or in some other way learned about civilian efforts on the homefront during the war.) Common student contributions could be: buying liberty bonds, working in factories making supplies, volunteering to fight, conserving food or fuel, etc.
After students have talked about civilian contributions for a few minutes, narrow the discussion to focus on what kids their age could do to support the war effort.
Which of the things that had been mentioned were available to high school students?
Were there any others that hadn’t been mentioned yet?
After addressing the ideas that were applicable to kids their age, have them read a copy of Governor Whitman’s Proclamation about the New York State Boys Working Reserve, March 14, 1918 to introduce the state’s farm cadet program. Provide them with these questions to help them focus on its purpose and origin:
Why is the Boys Working Reserve being created?
What consequences of American involvement in the war have made this program necessary? (list 2)
What does the governor suggest could help address this war need?
*Teachers can choose whether to have students write down their answers or discuss them verbally (or both) after reading the governor’s proclamation.
Next have students look at the “New York State Boys’ Working Reserve” Pamphlet, World War I, March 1918 and answer these questions:
What are the three principal public agencies involved in the organization of the Boys’ Working Reserve?
Within the Public School System who is responsible for allowing individual students to participate in the program?
If you live or go to school in New York, find your county in the list of County Farm Bureaus on page 7(6). Who was your county’s Farm Bureau Manager in March 1918 and where was the office located?
*Again, teachers can choose whether to go over the answers to these questions as a class or whether to have students write down the answers and possibly collect for a grade.
After students have read Governor Whitman’s Proclamation and the Pamphlet, assign individual students one (or more) of the the seven Farm Cadet Essays written by Charlotte Avery, Donald Jamieson, Elsie Blum, Francis Paretta, Lulu Wagar, Ruth Shaw, or William Sogg. *Teachers can choose to reduce the number of total essays assigned to students depending on class size or other factors relevant to individual class situations.
As students read their assigned essay(s), they should answer the following questions (if addressed in the document):
How long did the farm cadet work for?
(days/weeks/months; days per week; hours per day)
What type of farm work did he or she do?
Did you get the sense that the cadet found the work worthwhile and/or valuable? Why or why not?
What is one question you would like to ask the cadet about his or her experience that wasn’t mentioned in the essay?
*Students can start reading the Farm Cadet Essays in class at the end of the first day, and if they need additional time, they can finish it for homework before the beginning of class the second day.
Organize students into groups in which each essay has only been read by one student (jigsaw). Have students take turns explaining who wrote the essay they read and any pertinent biographical information (like age, gender, home or work location, etc.) they could figure out from the document. Then have students compare and contrast the different farm experiences using information from the questions a, b, and c. Once the group has discussed similarities and differences amongst farm cadet experiences, have them finish the small group work by sharing the question (d) they would like to ask the author of the essay they read.
Once the groups have had a chance to discuss their essays as described in step 6, facilitate a larger class discussion by having each group report back the 2 or 3 most interesting points that came out of their small group conversations. Teachers can use these points to guide the class into other related conversation topics if interested, i.e. take advantage of teachable moments.
Finish the lesson by having students write a paragraph about if they thought the New York State Boys’ Working Reserve was a valuable program in the war effort. Students can also include answers to some or all of the following questions to develop their response:
Would they have been interested in becoming a farm cadet if they had been in high school in 1918? Why or why not?
Is there some other type of contribution to the war effort that they would have preferred or think was more valuable? Why?
Would an organization like the Working Reserve be applicable to the Twenty-first century? Are there other ways that high school students could play a role in mobilization today that weren’t possible during World War I?
*Teachers can decide whether to collect at the end of class, transition to a pair/share activity, encourage individual students to read aloud to the class, or assign for homework (or some combination of these ideas) depending on time available or individual preference.
Some possible adjustments/extensions to this lesson are mentioned in the Procedure section.
Evaluation: Teachers can evaluate students’ learning in a number of ways:
- Students can be required to hand in their answers to the questions related to the documents described in steps 3, 4, & 5 of the Day 1 procedure.
- Teachers can focus on the discussion parts of the lesson to determine if students are understanding the material.
-Teachers can collect and grade the culminating paragraph described in step 8 of the Day 2 procedure.