1. Home
  2. Educational Resources
  3. Teacher Lesson Plans
  4. World War I and Wheat Farmers

World War I and Wheat Farmers

Lesson Author
Required Time Frame
Up to five fifty-minute class periods
Grade Level(s)
Lesson Abstract
Students will study the impact of World War I on wheat farmers, learning how a dramatic world event can impact a small sub-set of people.

Students will study the impact of World War I on wheat farmers, learning how a dramatic world event can impact a small sub-set of people.

District, state, or national performance and knowledge standards/goals/skills met
  • The student will recognize and evaluate continuity and change over time and its impact on individuals, institutions, communities, states and nations.
  • The student will analyze the context of continuity and change and the vehicles of reform, drawing conclusions about past change and potential future change.
  • The student will investigate an example of continuity and/or change and connect that continuity and/or change to a contemporary issue.
  • The student will use his/her understanding of continuity and change to construct a model for contemporary reform.
Assessment: fully explain the assessment method in detail or create and attach a scoring guide
  • Thematic Paragraph
    • Student explains how four terms are interconnected.
      • Possible Groupings: 
        • wheat farmers, World War I, wheat prices, Europe
        • wheat farmers, World War I, World War II, China
        • yield, mechanization, fertilizer, cross breeding

Example:  “Wheat farmers made a lot of money during World War I.  The price of wheat increased greatly during WW I.  Wheat prices almost tripled in three years.  The price of wheat went from $.78 per bushel in 1913 to $2.12 per bushel in 1917.  Farmers were encouraged by the government to ‘Win the War with Wheat.’  The wheat was not just for Americans.  A lot of it went to Europe because they were not able to grow as much wheat during the war.”

  • RAFT
    • A RAFT is a creative writing assignment.  It is an acronym for Role, Audience, Format and Topic.
    • Students choose one of the three choices, and they must complete a timeline detailing the information they will include in RAFT before beginning to write.
    • Students choosing roles #1 and #2 can access the primary sources at the Kansas State Historical Society “Wheat Harvest Tales” to get ideas for the RAFT.
    • Students choosing role #3 can access the article from Purdue University to get ideas for the RAFT. 












Farmer – Born in 1900







A detailed account of his farming operation – what he experienced and what he learned



7th Grade Student Who Lives on a Farm Specializing in Wheat Production That Has Been in the Family For Generations



His or Her Family




Family Tree


A detailed account of what each generation of their family experienced – the challenges they faced and how they overcame them



Professional Agronomist That Works For the Kansas Department of Agriculture



Kansas Secretary of Agriculture and Kansas Farmers




The report addressed two questions:


What can Kansas wheat farmers learn from the history of wheat production in Kansas?


What can wheat farmers expect in the future?




Discrepant Event Inquiry

This event was a boon for Kansas wheat farmers. 


The event started accidentally.  A terrorist assassinated a leader in a rather small and seemingly unimportant country.  After the assassination, things slowly spiraled out of control.  One by one, many countries chose sides.


Historians argue about what this event was really about.  Some say it was about growing nationalism – or people feeling a growing sense of loyalty to their country.  Others say it was about countries fighting for control of colonial lands around the world.  Some say it was inevitable because many countries had secret alliances with each other and were heavily armed.  Others say it was completely avoidable – that the main problem was greed and the use of a deadline imposed by one country that did not give the countries a chance to solve their problems. 


Following the advice of President George Washington, the United States kept to itself – at least on the surface.  Below the surface, the United States helped one side more than another.  The United States traded more to one side than the other.


Financially, this event was a boon to Kansas wheat farmers, but it did affect them in a negative way.  Eventually, over 63,000 Kansans would go and take part in this event.  Some of them died.


What event was this?

Primary Source Analysis   Woodrow Wilson – “Wilson’s War Message to Congress” – April 2, 1917



·        By the time Wilson delivered this speech to Congress in 1917, the war had been raging in Europe for over two and a half years.

·        Wilson was not in favor of going to war.  He ran for re-election in 1916 using the slogan “He Kept Us Out of War.” 

·        Wilson was pursuing a policy that he referred to as “armed neutrality.”  However, between 1914 and 1916, U.S. trade with the Allies more than tripled, while trade with the Central Powers decreased.  American banks had $2.2 billion loaned to the Allies, and only $27 million to the Central Powers.

·        At the same time that Wilson was delivering this speech, a revolution was taking place in Russia.  Russia had been fighting with the Allies (France and Great Britain,) but the revolution meant that Russia would sign an armistice with Germany and leave the war.  It would also mean that Russia was transitioning from a monarchy – a government led by a Czar – to a different form of government.  The U.S. hoped the new government would be democratic.  


The First Part of the Speech:  Wilson Talks About…  

·        Belgium.  Germany went through Belgium when they invaded France, and there were many stories of the brutality of German soldiers in Belgium.

·        Shipping.  World War I – and Germany in particular – was disrupting shipping in the Atlantic Ocean.  Wilson referred to this as “warfare against mankind.”

·        Neutrality.  Not only is neutrality impractical, it is making things worse because it is drawing the U.S. into the war without making preparations.

·        Autocrats.  He makes it clear that he wants to fight the German government – an autocratic government that was not elected by the people - and not the German people.  “We have no quarrel with the German people,” Wilson stated.  


The Most Famous Part:  What Do You Think Wilson Was Saying?  



What Wilson Said



Your Interpretation





“The world must be made safe for democracy.  Its peace must be planted upon the tested foundations of political liberty.  We have no selfish ends to serve.  We desire no conquest, no dominion.  We seek no indemnities for ourselves, no material compensation for the sacrifices we shall freely make.  We are but one of the champions of the rights of mankind.  We shall be satisfied when those rights have been made as secure as the faith and the freedom of nations can make them.”







Democracy:  Self-Government  

Political Liberty:  Political Freedom  

Dominion:  Ownership  

Indemnities:  Repayment  

Compensation:  Payment  



Commodity:  Something that can be 1) bought and sold, and 2) used ·       

Examples:  grains, metals, oil, natural gas, beef, electricity, and currencies

·        Wheat is a commodity  


Reaping:  To harvest or gather a crop

Threshing:  Separating grain from a plant

Combine:  A machine that performs both reaping and threshing  


Bushels, Acres and Yield  

Bushel:  A unit of measure that is 64 pints.

·        A bushel of wheat weighs about 60 lbs.  

Acre:  An area that is 4,840 square yards

·        This is roughly the size of a football field.  

Yield:  The amount of grain harvested

·        This is typically measured in bushels per acre.  


If a farmer harvested 1,200 bushels on 160 acres of land, the yield would be 7.5 bushels per acre.

Total Bushels / Acres = Yield

1,200 Bushels / 160 Acres = 7.5 Bushels per Acre  


Inflation:  A general increase in the prices of goods and services, and a decrease in the purchasing power of money

·        “Inflation” explains why a hamburger at McDonalds in more expensive today than it was twenty years ago.

·        Inflation means that you cannot compare money values form different eras.    


Which one is NOT a commodity?

a.     Gold

b.     Euro

c.      Stock of Wal-Mart

d.     Soybeans

e.     Orange Juice  


Draw a picture that illustrates the difference between these two terms:  reaping and threshing.  






















Solve the following problem:  A farmer owns 1,000 acres.  He plants 500 acres to wheat, and he is able to harvest 450 acres.  He harvests a total of 13,500 bushels.  What is his total yield?


          According to Bureau of Labor Statistics, prices in 2018 are 9.75% higher than they were in 2012.  If the price of a “whatchamacallit” was $200 in 2012 – what would the price of the “whatchamacallit” be in 2018?


Kansas Wheat History:  1866-1910  

When was the price of wheat highest during this time period?      

When was the price of what lowest during this time?      

What was the “range” between these two prices?      

Which of these two statements do you agree with?  

During this time period, the price of wheat seems rather stable. During this time period, the price of wheat seems rather volatile.


During this time period, does the yield – the number of bushels harvested per acre - greatly increase, greatly decrease or pretty much stay the same?       


Which of these statements do you agree with?  

During this time period, the amount of land harvested increases slowly. During this time period, the amount of land harvested explodes in one year.    


During this time period, in what year did “Production” reach its peak?      


During this time period, at what year does the “Farm Value” of wheat in Kansas reach its peak?


Kansas Wheat History:  1910-1940  

When was the price of wheat highest during this time period?      

When was the price of what lowest during this time?      

What was the “range” between these two prices?      


Which of these two statements do you agree with?  

During this time period, the price of wheat seems rather stable. During this time period, the pr