After the Civil War,
the United States went through many changes. The importance of the
South declined because cotton was no longer king. The southern farmers
planted cotton year after year, and it depleted the soil. When the
slaves became free, many turned to farming since this was a profession
they knew something about. However, they followed the practices of
their former bosses, which continued to deplete the soil. Many faced
disaster and this became a growing concern.
George Washington Carver, an
American, was a chemist, agricultural scientist, and inventor. He
realized that southern farmers should diversify their crops by planting
soil enriching peanuts and sweet potatoes instead of soil exhausting cotton.
He campaigned very hard to get farmers to change their ways, but he then
created another problem. What do you do with peanuts and sweet potatoes
with a very limited market. So George Washington Carver, turned to his
inventive side. He created over 300 products that could be used by
both peanuts and sweet potatoes. Peanuts were used for cheese, milk,
coffee, flour, ink, dyes, soap, wood stain, and insulating board.
Sweet potatoes were used for flour, vinegar, molasses, and rubber.
Peanuts are high in protein
and contain a high percentage of oil. The ability to break down into
a smooth mixture makes peanuts ideal for a sandwich spread. It would
be hard for children to live in the United States without peanut butter
and jelly sandwiches. George Washington Carver's inventions changed
the eating habits of most Americans.
- In this lab, students
will learn some of the properties of peanuts George Washington Carver had
to investigate before he "invented" new products. First, ask students
if anyone is allergic to peanuts. These children should be excused
from eating any peanut products.
- Following the lab sheet,
burn the peanut first. This may be done as a demonstration if parent
help is not available. Students love to burn the peanuts, but many need
supervision with matches. The peanut will be a mini torch.
- Use a stretched out
paper clip or a meat skewer to pierce the peanut on one end and then light
it. The longer the handle of the torch the better. It may be
wise to have students do this over a pail of water. The torch will
last for a minute or so, this is because there is a lot of oil in a peanut.
- Give the students several
peanuts and have them look at the properties of the shell and peanut.
The shell was used as insulating material at one time. See what the
students think can be made from a peanut. Make them use their imaginations.
- Have a taste test of
two or three peanut butter brands. See if the students can tell the
difference between brands. This a great lab for a snack!