6th Grade New York

Agriculture

This sixth grade annotated inquiry provides students with an opportunity to investigate the role of agriculture in the growth of complex societies. Students will examine sources related to the development of agriculture, the emergence of ancient writing in Mesopotamia, and the rise of social inequalities as they construct an argument in response to the compelling question “Was the development of agriculture good for humans?” This question takes advantage of students’ intuitive understanding that the development of agriculture was essential and advantageous for humans, and then offers them a chance to explore some of the intended and unintended consequences of agriculture. This inquiry focuses on Mesopotamia and represents just a slice of what students should learn about the development of agriculture and the establishment of human civilization, so additional inquiries may be needed to fully represent the key idea.

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Compelling Question:

Was the Development
of Agriculture Good 
for Humans?

Staging the Question: Make a list of the greatest innovations and write a statement about why particular innovations appear on the list.
1

Supporting Question How did environmental changes and new technologies affect the development of agriculture?

Formative Task Create a chart with information about how climate change and improved tools contributed to the development of agriculture.

Sources Source A: Timeline of the Neolithic Revolution
Source B: Historical temperature data
Source C: Image bank: Neolithic farming tools

2

Supporting Question How did the development of agriculture in Mesopotamia lead to the development of writing?

Formative Task Write a paragraph about how writing emerged in Mesopotamia and describe the implications of that development.

Sources Source A: Sumerian counting tokens
Source B: Sumerian numeric system
Source C: Clay tablet with cuneiform symbols

3

Supporting Question What were the consequences of agriculture for humans?

Formative Task Develop a claim supported by evidence that agriculture had a range of consequences for human culture.

Sources Source A: Graph of population changes in the Neolithic period
Source B: Image bank: Life in Paleolithic and Neolithic communities
Source C: Graph of changes in rates of disease

Summative Performance Task

Argument: Was the development of agriculture good for humans? Construct an argument (e.g., detailed outline, poster, or essay) that addresses the compelling question using specific claims and relevant evidence from historical sources while acknowledging competing views.
Extension: Conduct a Socratic dialogue addressing the compelling question.

Taking Informed Action

Understand: Find an example of a modern development (like agriculture) that has resulted in a variety of consequences for humans.
Assess: Determine the intended and unintended consequences of the innovation identified.
Act: Publish a public service announcement about the intended and unintended consequences of the innovation.