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Food for Thought: Life in the Agrarian Antebellum South

WebQuest Teacher Guide for 8th Grade United States History
Designed for Teaching American History in South Carolina US Department of Education, Office of Innovation and Improvement Award #S215X010282-01.


Any given day students pass countless fast food restaurants and supermarkets. A quick trip to their favorite fast food dive, and it's not long before they're munching on burgers and fries. Or, at home students might prepare a feast of microwaveable chicken nuggets, seasoned just right. If the cookie cupboard is bare, no fear-it won't be long before supplies are restocked from the store down the street. Students probably don't want to clean dishes or utensils, so they eat their snacks with paper plates and plastic forks. My how things have changed.... Welcome now to Lexington County, South Carolina--1850!

While students will recognize many foods from long ago, life in the 1850s is much different from what they're used to. In Food for Thought, students learn about Southern antebellum food traditions-what people used to eat, how they stored and preserved food. Students also learn about Lexington County's general history from settlement through antebellum years. As students give a little thought for food, they will catch a glimpse of the Southern agrarian society in the years leading up to the American Civil War.

With Food for Thought, students take an interactive virtual tour of Lexington County Museum's buildings and rooms, which interpret antebellum food traditions. While touring Lexington County Museum, students make historical inquiry. They examine primary and secondary sources. And they complete challenges, which teach important process skills such as reading charts, graphs, and tables. Of course, Food for Thought also addresses writing skills. In addition to food traditions, the Lexington County WebQuest also provides rich insight into South Carolina's antebellum cotton culture.

South Carolina Standards

Food for Thought aligns with the following South Carolina content and process standards:
* 8.3.6: Compare and contrast the Northern industrial system with the Southern agrarian society.
* 8.3.8: Describe the emergence of an American culture and literature.
* Distinguish between past, present, and future time.
* Establish chronological order in constructing one's own historical narratives.
* Utilize visual and mathematical data presented in charts, tables, pie and bar graphs, flow charts, Venn diagrams, and other graphic organizers.
* Identify the author or source of the historical document or narrative.
* Formulate historical questions from a variety of sources.
* Interrogate historical data.
* Employ quantitative analysis.
* Construct sound historical interpretations with evidence.
* Communicate in written form using appropriate writing standards.

Student Challenge Tasks

In general, students' most important job is to ask questions and take notes of interesting things they learn. Specifically, students complete three tasks:
1. Tour the site, and keep a journal of interesting questions, facts and concepts related to food traditions.
2. Complete the document-based Agricultural Census Challenge.
3. Ask Cosmo. Students ask questions that they and their peers cannot answer from the available text.

Journal Keeping

As students tour the Lexington County WebQuest site they keep a research journal-Lewis and Clark style! In their web-based journals, students include the following:
* Interesting and curious things from each section (Yard, Kitchen, and Dining Room).
* Well-written questions and answers.
* Unknown words that students will research in a dictionary.
All journal entries should be written in complete sentences, in standard paragraph form. Students can be creative in crafting their journal entries--writing as if they are time travelers. Journal questions and answers may be used in a quiz game, where students divide into teams, and then ask each other their journal questions.

Click here to read Technical Directions for Writing, Printing, and Saving Journal Entries.

Agricultural Census Challenge

The Agricultural Census Challenge includes three tasks: 1) Headings and Sub-Headings, 2) Fox Farm Table Challenge, and 3) Fox-Farm Line Graph Challenge. Students can find these challenges in the Sweet Potato House. Agricultural Census challenges include links to 1850, 1860, 1870, and 1880 census records. With these challenges, students interrogate historical data, employ quantitative analysis, and construct sound historical interpretations with historical evidence from primary sources. Specifically, students interpret agricultural census records, extracting data to complete tables and construct line graphs. Further, students interpret trends and make historical conclusions from data.

Ask Cosmo

Encourage students to be very curious about what they learn. Students should also be very critical about what they read. They should ask questions about the reliability of historical resources, and about the validity of historical conclusions and interpretations. As students learn more about the agrarian Southern society, they should think about questions they have. First, students should talk to their colleagues about their questions. If students cannot determine the answers to their questions, or if they want to challenge interpretations made in Food for Thought, then they should Ask Cosmo.

Submit e-mail questions to Cosmo who will reply in 24-48 hours with answers. Students should be informed, though, that sometimes Cosmo may not have all the answers. He will tell students as much as he knows, and will give students clues about how to learn more. Quite frequently, Cosmo will return question for question. Hopefully, Cosmo's questions and answers will encourage deeper thinking from students.