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Online Curriculum

Cotton's Journey: Planting the Seeds of Knowledge

The following article first appeared in The Link, the Nation’s Homeschool Newspaper, Vol. 6, Issue 3, 6/02, and has appeared in several education publications since.

Have you ever wondered where the clothes you and your family wear come from…or the dressing you put on your salad…or the sheets and towels you use everyday?  Did you know that fine writing paper, medical supplies, plastics, cosmetics, recording tapes and even the money you use to buy these things are made from COTTON?

A comprehensive kit designed by a third generation farm family from Tranquillity, California, the Yribarren Family can answer these questions and more. In 1993, Janette and Rick, along with their three sons Jeff, Mitch and Travis, wanted to let the rest of the Nation know what they had already discovered; and to do it in a fun and educational manner.  Hence, Cotton’s Journey—A Field Trip In a Box was conceived.  Janette is always fine tuning the curriculum, taking suggestions from classroom teachers and homeschool moms, making it a study unit easily utilized in any setting.  “We wanted the educator/student to feel familiar with the topic and inquisitive about its applications”, says Janette Yribarren, education consultant.  In order to do this, a website, was created to compliment the study unit with additional resources, lessons, cotton information and educational links.  She continues, “most people don’t realize how much this country depends on cotton and it’s by-products. Take for instance; in one year cotton will generate over $122.4 billion in revenue, the greatest of any US crop.  Or the fact that cotton is considered a “food and fiber” plant, which yields cottonseed oil containing no cholesterol, and can play a role in reducing saturated fat intake.  This and more helpful information is included on the website.” 

Cotton’s Journey—A Field Trip In a Box kit includes: 1) Lesson guide 2) Cotton bolls of Pima (six) and Upland (five) varieties grown in the United States 3) Samples of cotton in various stages 4) Cotton planting seeds with instructions 5) Cottonseed oil 6) Colorful 24”x33” poster showing cotton in six stages of growth 7) Student booklet parallels included video 8) Fabric dictionary defines weaves and their uses 9) Production flow chart takes the student from planting through harvest and processing stages and 10) Approximately 25 minute live video documentary of the history, production and processing of cotton. The lesson guide is divided into three units written for grades 1-3, 4-6 and 7-8, provides a glossary, and recommended literature and resource list.  Each lesson lists the objectives and the standards fulfilled, and follow a simple format to allow for quick reference, flexibility and time efficiency.
Cotton’s Journey-A Field Trip In A Box curriculum is meant to give inquisitive minds a whole unit experience through the provided lesson guide & classroom resources.   It puts into practice the inquiry-based approach and meets National Education Standards for English/Language Arts, Math, Science, and Social Studies.  Lessons are easy to follow so that you may take ownership of this study unit by, determining where each lesson fits into your plan; personalize curriculum to the needs of your children; and the opportunity to utilize curriculum that supports national recommendations.  Students are allowed to research and collect fact, achieve discovery, make sense of practical reasoning, and relate to actual pieces of their lives-forming connections.  The open-ended discussions, group learning and hands-on activities will create challenging learning.  Lessons tie into other study topics as pre-Civil War economy, ancient cultures and the development of cotton in Egypt, gardening, life cycles, technology, U.S. colonial history and how agriculture affects our lives today. 

Cotton’s Journey-A Field Trip In A Box has many goals for the student to satisfy.  Several disciplines have been linked around the common theme of “cotton”.  By the end of this unit, the student will be able to know, understand and explain:

Cotton’s Journey-A Field Trip In A Box lends itself as enrichment to the core subjects, as well as the basis and rationale of each.  The rise of ancient civilizations, the American colonies into independent states and the United States as a major world power are inextricably intertwined with the cultivation of cotton and lend themselves to a relevant and interesting method of teaching Social StudiesLife Science concepts relating to plant structures, growth and genetics become more relevant to students when they are able to make real-life associations.  Math is addressed by using calculating skills of Number Sense; Statistics, Data Analysis and Probability; and Mathematical Reasoning.  English/Language Arts may be fully integrated through a multicultural flavor of both real and fictional characters that faced adversity during pivotal eras in US history with strength, courage and determination.  Student’s comprehension can be measured through a variety of response activities.  Concepts are reinforced through daily observations, journal entries, and research projects.

Sample Lesson:
Papermaking from cotton linters is a hands-on activity included in the study unit.  Here is a sample of the activity:
Objective: Student will be able to experience the production of paper and realize that cotton is a renewable product.
Standards-Science: 4th, 5th and 6th level-Investigation and Experimentation

Did you have fun making your own writing paper?  To learn more about cotton and the history of papermaking Cotton’s Journey-A Field Trip In A Box lists several extension lessons to compliment this activity.  So lets get started on your cotton journey, with lots of fun learning about a plant we so often take for granted…COTTON.■

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