Teach PA History
It's Just a Barn
Equipment & Supplies
  • Overhead projector Transparencies Ruler Paper Dictionaries

Day One

Begin by asking students to identify ideas and products that began in Pennsylvania and then spread to other parts of the world. (The discussion could include a variety of items across a wide spectrum from the ‘Slinky" to the ‘Hershey Kiss" to ‘computers.")

Ask if anyone can identify the term that is associated with the spread of ideas: Diffusion.

Have a student/students write the following definitions on the board:

Diffusion: The spread of people, ideas, technology, and products among places.

Cultural diffusion: The spread of cultural elements from one culture to another.

(Definitions are from the Pennsylvania Academic Standards for Geography.)

Explain that the Pennsylvania Barn is a fine example of cultural diffusion that you will look at in a few moments. First, ask if anyone knows what a Pennsylvania Barn is? (See markerFisher House marker page or Background Information for Teachers for information about the Pennsylvania Barn.)

Distribute Student Handout 1: The Pennsylvania Barn for students to identify components of the Pennsylvania Barn. Distribute Student Handout 2: 1880 Pennsylvania Barn and make specific comments related to the four views. (Note: teachers may want to make transparencies of Student Handouts for classroom discussion.) Make sure to cover the specific locations and functions of the following terms:

  • Cantilever

  • Forebay

  • Banked entrance

  • Support posts

  • Ventilated louvers

  • Sheds

Collect handouts. Have students identify the features of a Pennsylvania Barn using Student Worksheet 1: The Pennsylvania Barn, either as a class or individually.

  1. To identify these features as a class use Student Worksheet 1: The Pennsylvania Barn as a transparency. Ask a student to volunteer to indicate one of the farm features and label the transparency. The class can be asked if they agree or disagree and to discuss why that feature is significant. Repeat until all features are identified.

  2. To test individual recall, provide a printed copy of Student Worksheet 1: The Pennsylvania Barn to each student and ask them to identify each farm feature and explain why that feature is significant.

See Teacher Guide 1: The Pennsylvania Barn

Remind the class that diffusion of the Pennsylvania Barn took place due to its efficiency. Distribute Student Handout 3: The Pennsylvania Barn Core Region map. This region is where the barn was first used and is recognized as its "core."

Ask the class:

  1. Using the map key and ruler, can anyone tell me how far (number of miles) the Pennsylvania Barn Core reached? (Its length is over 125 miles.)

  2. What other state beside Pennsylvania is included in the core? (Maryland)

  3. What river bisects (splits) the core region? ( Susquehanna River)

Now tell the class they are going to consider the land features of this Pennsylvania Barn Core region. Keep Student Handout 3 available for use. Distribute Student Handout 4: Shaded Relief Map and Student Handout 5: Physiographic Provinces of Pennsylvania. Divide students into small teams (approximately four students per team). Give each team Student Worksheet 2: Reading a Map and a dictionary and allow them to work together to complete the worksheet during class. The worksheet asks students to imagine what features make an area ideal for farming, to locate the Pennsylvania Barn Core Region on the Physiographic map of Pennsylvania, to identify and define the main geological regions that comprise of barn core (Piedmont Province and Ridge and Valley Province), and to identify the common features of these regions. Hopefully students will notice that the common features of type of land which makes up the Pennsylvania Barn Core Region are the same features which make an ideal farming area. If they do not, point this out. For worksheet answers see Teacher Guide 2: Reading a Map.

Day Two

Distribute Student Handout 6: Distribution and Diffusion of the Pennsylvania Barn. Ask the students to study the map, focusing on distribution in Pennsylvania. After giving them some time, question the class on the core, domain, and the lack of dots in certain sections of Pennsylvania. Be sure to note the size of the sphere (the large parameters of diffusion) and call particular attention to the domain as it indicates early migration patterns into Maryland and Virginia.

Explain to students that the Pennsylvania Barn remained important throughout agricultural areas of Pennsylvania into the 1800s. In the 19 th century a leader in agricultural reform and a supporter of agricultural education introduced a different idea. (Note: Teachers should read the markerFrederick Watts "Behind the Marker" story). Share information about Frederick Watts, the development of the reaper, his connection with Cyrus McCormick, Watts" experimental farm, and his importance in the history of agriculture in Pennsylvania as well as in United States history.

Distribute Primary Source 1: Photo of the Frederick Watts Experimental Farm, Primary Source 2: The Watts "Improved" Pennsylvania Barn, Primary Source 3: Watts Tenant Farm House and Student Handout 7: The Frederick Watt Experimental Farm. Note the features that make the barn and the farm complex more efficient–compact barnyard; integrated stabling, storage, and work areas; and distribution of fertilizer. Using Student Handout 7: Fredrick Watts and the Experimental Farm and the Frederick Watts "Behind the Marker" story, have students complete Student Worksheet 3: The Life and Work of Frederick Watts. See Teacher Guide 3: The Life and Work of Frederick Watts for responses. Students will use their completed worksheets as a pre-writing activity to prepare for their final assignment–writing an obituary for Frederick Watts. Have students make sure to include factual information (age at death, date of death, etc.), personal information (where he went to school, personality traits, etc.), and his professional contributions, particularly his achievements in the field of agriculture. The obituary may be completed for homework. Within this lesson, students will have several resources for this assignment:

  • The Frederick Watts "Behind the Marker" story (linked above)

  • Student Handout 7: Fredrick Watts and the Experimental Farm

  • Student Worksheet 3: The Life and Work of Frederick Watts.

Encourage students to show incentive and research additional information to include in the obituary.

The next day ask several students to present their obituary of Frederick Watts to the class.

Then conclude the lesson by showing students an actual obituary of Watts taken from the Carlisle Daily Herald (August 19, 1889). First show the entire page. (You can point out interesting details–such as the price of the newspaper.) Then have the students read an excerpt of the obituary taken from this newspaper page.

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