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This is a “how barbed wire changed the West” lesson activity
9, 12, 11, 10
Title – Cattle Ranching and Barbed Wire
By – Allison Rettger
Primary Subject – Social Studies
Grade Level – 9-12
Materials needed: Toy with wheels (or wind-up toy), “fence building materials” (for example: paper, pencils, sticky tack, yarn, masking tape and index cards)
*I did this activity at the beginning of the class period, but it could be used near the end.
I got students into groups of 5-6; their task was to build a fence to stop the toy (I used a small truck, but it could be a mechanical-type toy as well). For my classroom, I required the structure to be portable so it could be moved from their desks to the front table in order for all students to see the experiments. In order for competition to be fair, groups were only allowed to use certain items (for example, two sheets of paper or three note cards). I gave the list of materials I gave students, but you can use whatever you have on hand.
After giving about 15-20 minutes to complete the structure, we held a contest to see whose fence worked the best. I usually tried to hit the fence three or four times –or less– depending on the strength of the fence. After all the groups went, I tested my own fence; although I used two pencils (I only gave students one pencil) and paper clips (students did not get paper clips). My fence was suppose to represent the invention of barbed wire; although, the students’ fences did stop the truck better than mine!
I then gave a few notes on cattle ranching in the West and how it ended (ie, barbed wire and weather). Students seem to get into the building project — especially the competition aspect of the activity.
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