Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Preparing for the feast

I don't know about you, but my kids are ready for Thanksgiving. Whether it's the turkey, the pumpkin pie, the days off school or the "official" start of the Christmas season, they are ready. So while their minds are on the upcoming feast anyway, it's a perfect time to practice reading charts, interpreting data and learning about how important agriculture and food production are to state's economies. Here in Ohio, agriculture is the largest industry in the state. That makes it pretty important!

Let's start by taking a moment to look at just a few of the "staples" of a traditional Thanksgiving feast:

The United States is the world's largest producer of turkeys. So where are these birds raised? Here are the top 10 turkey producing states in the country with the number of birds raised in each

  1. Minnesota: 48 million
  2. North Carolina: 40 million
  3. Arkansas: 31 million
  4. Missouri: 21 million
  5. Virginia: 18 million
  6. California: 16 million
  7. Indiana: 14.5 million
  8. South Carolina: 12.5 million
  9. Pennsylvania: 11.5 million
  10. Iowa: 9 million
Source: United States Department of Agriculture 2008 numbers. Print off the chart from the USDA, page 7, and ask students to rank the top 5 or top 10 turkey producing states either by total dollar value, number of turkeys, or even the average price per pound in each state. 

Follow up by asking age-appropriate questions, like how many turkeys are raised on farms in Indiana? Which state produces more turkeys, Arkansas or Virginia?  Which state produces the most turkeys? Which state produces fewer turkeys, Missouri or California? How many more turkeys are produced in Indiana than South Carolina? How many turkeys are produced in the three top turkey-producing states?

Even more fun? Take a look at the blog On the Banks of Squaw Creek to hear the tales of our teacher and blogger friend Katie,  who lives on one of those turkey farms responsible for making Iowa a top-ten turkey-producing state. She tells lots of turkey tales and has cool pictures of what modern turkey production looks like.

Education World has a worksheet available for download on sweet potato and cranberry production that explores similar questions, too.

Another great tool to look at is the American Farm Bureau's annual Thanksgiving basket survey. Each year they shop for the same list of Thanksgiving feast staples to estimate the cost of preparing a Thanksgiving dinner. The list remains the same from year to year, so students can look at the relative costs over time and chart those as well. They can also track inflation over time and compare those results as well.

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