In social studies we decided to do a mini-unit (3 days only!) on cotton since our awesome garden here at MRH has cotton! We partnered up with our awesome gardener Mrs. Breed-Parks and we learned a lot about cotton: where it comes from, how to pick and harvest it, and what can be done with after it's been picked. Cotton was a huge industry during the colonial era--done mostly by slaves, but others (from all different races) throughout the US (and well into the 20th century) picked cotton as well.
We started our mini Cotton unit off with a view from Mr. Dan. Mr. Dan is one of our awesome bus drivers/buildings and grounds guru here at MRH, and along with fighting in the Vietnam War, he also picked cotton on a farm when he was a boy! Check out his story below:
After hearing from Mr. Dan and his experiences, students set out in groups to read about all of the uses and production capabilities for cotton. We then headed out into the garden to actually look at how our cotton here was growing and then we got to pick it and de-seed it.
We then headed back inside to actually pick out the seeds of the cotton (which hasn't been done for many centuries, thanks to the invention of the cotton gin in the late 1700s). Students really liked finding all of the seeds in the fluffy cotton--we are saving the seeds to plant more cotton next spring!
Overall it was a great mini-unit for the students. I think a lot of them thought cotton picking was only done by slaves--and although a good portion of it was--it was actually done by people of all races and ethnicities. We briefly touched on slavery in our American Revolution unit, and we'll circle back to it again in our Civil War unit as well. This was just a great opportunity for students to get to hear from a real-life cotton picker and see what cotton looks like and how it's picked in person.