Farming, Geometry, Mapping, and Money

Math in Many Forms!

In Robin Davis’s math class, first grade students have been learning all about farming. In the process, they have been learning about geometry, mapping, and money calculations. Over the course of a month in this project based learning unit combining both social studies and math, students built their own model farms. They explored geometry skills such as area and perimeter, following land use codes for raising (and fencing) various farm animals. They also extended previous knowledge working with number calculations and money because in order to build their farms, they needed to buy the buildings, land, and animals. In addition, with field trips to see local backyard chickens being raised, as well as a trip to Slide Ranch, an educational farm near Muir Beach, students gained real world knowledge about farm life and farm animals. 

Models Taking Shape 

The students started out brainstorming all they knew about farms, preparing wallets of “farm bucks,” and decorating the folder they would use throughout the project. They next began planning out their model farms on a 24” x 24” square grid. They had to follow specific guidelines based on square units in order to figure out how to plan their farm and had to think through the different components needed on a farm. They started out with buying a farm house and building a road. 

Making Rectangles

Next, the 1st graders built a barn and added silo. They had to think through how they would use their land and where the different structures would go. Land use code specified that the barn, for example, could be anywhere from 6-10 squares, and it had to be a rectangle. Before making any final decisions students experimented making rectangles out of the various options. Many students were quick to note that a square is made of four squares, but were surprised that 9 is also a square number. Students also recognized that when the number was even, they could make a “better” rectangle for their barn, whereas a 7 only yielded a long skinny shape. This was great math thinking for our MTS 1st graders!

Raising Animals & Computation Skills

Once students had figured out where the main structures would go on their farms, they moved onto learning about animals and the costs associated with raising animals. Starting with goats, students learned all about goats. Then, they got to purchase their first animals and figure out where to put them on their farms. Each goat ($8) required two land squares (at $10/square) plus fencing ($1/segment), so many students were motivated to find the best way to arrange their squares to optimize their fencing (perimeter) requirements. This gave them an opportunity to gain real life experience with geometry concepts and in calculating area. For example, fencing could be more expensive if the area perimeter was bigger, depending on the shape. They also had to calculate the cost of the animals. If they bought two goats at $8 each, how much would that cost? The students explored, mapped, and purchased land for animals including goats, chickens, cows, sheep, and horses. Any land that wasn't used to raise animals was used to grow crops. 

Farmers’ Markets

As they continued in the project, students realized they needed more money to continue building out their farms. In order to raise the money they needed, they opened farmers’ markets to sell goods from their farms. MTS teachers and administrators dropped by the marketplace to purchase fresh milk, goat cheese, wool hats, and even some creative jewelry! 

Throughout the process, the class discussed different aspects about the choices they could make on their farms and considered the philosophical questions that can arise around these choices. For example, it could be cheaper to raise animals on less land, but is that good for the animals? Students researched the regulation code for how much space farm chickens need and compared the differences between cage-free, free-range, and pasture-raised and thought about how much these different types of eggs sell on the market. 

Raising Backyard Chickens

One of our staff members living nearby raises backyard chickens. The students had the opportunity to visit her house to see the chickens. They were able to gather eggs, feed the chickens, and everyone had the chance to hold a chicken. Some children liked holding the chickens better than others!

Farm Show & Final Market

As students finished up their model farms, they invited faculty and staff to come to their classroom to see the models, learn about farms and animals, visit the “petting zoo” (two stuffed chickens), and purchase last items at a final farmers market. Several students calculated how much money they had spent in total (Inka spent $671!) on their farms. The class finalized the project with a display outside of their classroom to be enjoyed by everyone at the school. 

A Visit to Slide Ranch

The first graders also enjoyed a field trip to Slide Ranch. Students had the opportunity to see goats, sheep, and chickens on the farm, feed and pet the animals, and explore the beautiful landscape on the coast where the farm is located. Nothing like digging in the dirt!


The Project Exhibition 

The project culminated with an exhibit outside the first grade classroom showing all their learnings for the first all school MTS "Door to Door" march. The display included their model farms and information about farm animals. One display explained the differences between farm eggs (farm fresh, pasteurized, free range) that people can buy at the store. The exhibit invited visitors to advocate for the positive treatment of farm animals. Impressive work, first graders!




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