LESSON 1: What Is a Grain Elevator?
Grade Level: This lesson can be modified easily to work at any grade level
(K-12) since the depth of the students’ questions will vary depending on
age, experience, interest, and individual ability.
Illinois State Learning Standards that can be covered with this lesson:
- English – 1C: Comprehend a broad range of reading materials.
- English – 5A: Locate, organize, and use information from various
sources to answer questions.
- English – 5B: Analyze and evaluate information acquired from various
- English – 5C: Apply acquired information, concepts, and ideas
to communicate in a variety of formats.
- Science – 11B: Know and apply the concepts, principles, and processes
of technological design.
- Science – 11D: Know and apply concepts that describe force and
motion and the principles that explain them.
- Science – 13B: Know and apply concepts that describe the interaction
between science, technology, and society.
- Social Science – 15A: Understand how different economic systems
operate in the exchange, production, distribution, and consumption of goods and
- Social Science – 15B: Understand that scarcity necessitates choices
- Social Science – 15C: Understand trade as an exchange of goods
- Social Science – 16A: Apply the skills of historical analysis
- Social Science – 16C: Understand the development of economic systems.
- Social Science – 16D: Understand Illinois, United States, and
world social history.
- Social Science – 16E: Understand United States and world environmental
- Social Science – 18E: Understand the roles and interactions of
individuals and groups in society.
Students will understand the purpose and function of a grain elevator.
Students will understand the role of a grain elevator in the corn farming
Students will understand the history of the grain elevator and how it
Students will understand the impact a grain elevator has on its surrounding
Students visiting the elevator will have a foundation of general knowledge
about grain elevators on which to build as they experience an actual grain elevator.
Materials and Supplies:
- Begin by having students complete the first two sections (K and W) of
the Grain Elevator KWL handout either as individuals, groups, or as a whole class.
If students need help coming up with W questions, have them consider when grain
elevators were invented, where they are located, how they work, how they are
used, what role they played in the community, and how grain elevators have changed
over the last 100 years).
- Have students research online or in a library (or
ask questions during a visit to the JH Hawes Grain Elevator Museum) to find answers
to their questions.
- Discuss what students learned and incorporate one or more
Learning Extensions (below), if desired.
- If your class will be visiting the
JH Hawes Grain Elevator Museum, have students compile a list of any questions
not yet answered to take with them.
Learning Extensions and Possible Products:
- Have students create a Web
page, PowerPoint or KidPix presentation, or poster showcasing what they learned
about grain elevators in their research. (IL State Standards: English – 3A,
3B, 3C in addition to those listed above)
- Have students deliver an expository
written or oral report about the purpose and function of grain elevators. (IL
State Standards: English – 3A,
3B, 3C, 4A, 4B in addition to those listed above)
- Ask students to track the corn
markets for a week in the newspapers or online and discuss the factors that affect
pricing. (IL State Standards: Math – 6A,
6B, 6C, 6D, 8A, 8B; Science 12E in addition to those listed above)
an operating grain elevator near your school and schedule an interview with an
elevator operator. Allow students to ask questions they were unable to answer
through their research.
J.H. Hawes Grain Elevator:
Atlanta, Illinois: History in Atlanta
The Grain Elevators: Buffalo’s Lost History
Wheatmania.com: Prairie Skyscrapers
Geoffrey Simmons’ Grain Elevator Bibliography
Inglis Grain Elevators National Historic Site
Additional Pre-Visit Activities:
- Have students write about (or draw a diagram of) how the grain elevator moves
grain from one place to another within the elevator. This can be done as an anticipatory
activity (e.g., “Predict how the corn is moved from the truck that brought
it into a storage bin”) before any research is done, or it can be done
in the process of helping students learn about the elevator.
- Ask students to interview a relative, neighbor, or other person who
has either worked in, visited, or stored grain in (e.g., a farmer) a grain elevator.
- For younger children, use a toy dump truck and dried corn kernels to
demonstrate how gravity causes the grain to fall down and out of the truck when
- Have students locate Atlanta, Illinois, on a map and discuss its location
and history (the Atlanta, Illinois website listed above will be very helpful
for this activity).