Thursday, August 19, 2010

Washington's Big Decision

Many people think of George Washington as a general or a president but he was also a very innovative farmer. During my week at Mount Vernon this summer as a participant in the 2010 Gilder Lehrman Summer Seminar I spent time studying Washington's actions as a farmer. He did some amazing things on his farms and was on the cutting edge of technology for his time. Today on a visit to Mount Vernon you can visit a reconstruction of the 16 sided round barn he built and designed to thresh grain.

One of Washington's most important decisions as a farmer came in 1765 when he decided to shift the from growing tobacco to wheat. He was one of the first to do this on a large scale in Virginia. He made this decision for several reasons and it ultimately allowed him to make a profit at a time when those who stayed with tobacco eventually fell further in debt.

During the seminar I created a lesson plan to help students analyze why Washington made this decision. The lesson is created primarily for a middle school or junior high history class and can be conducted in one 45 minute period. Students will also be using a couple of primary resources from George Washington. The podcast describes the lesson plan and this blog post includes a full description and materials in PDF format.
This blog entry also includes a short video shoot at Mount Vernon with Daniel Purkey, Lead Interpreter for Historic Trades at Mount Vernon, describing the reasons for Washington's decision.