This interesting and inspiring book, complete with many original photographs, chronicles the life of George Washington Carver. Although born into slavery, by much study and hard work, in 1896 he became a professor at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, a fledgling school for black students. He did pioneering research for many years, especially on uses of soybeans and the peanut. He led a remarkable and fruitful life as a teacher, researcher, and provider of practical scientific knowledge to farmers.
Interested in using this resource in your classroom? Check out the posters that go along with this book: Capital Resources, Productive Resources, Human Resources, Supply and Demand, Producers, Consumers, Productivity, Natural Resources, Entrepreneur
When George was growing up in the home of Moses and Susan Carver, the family was very self-sufficient. That is, they produced many goods themselves instead of trading for them. They didn’t specialize as much as modern farmers do. What are some examples of their self-sufficiency is in the story? (p.6)
They grew much of their own food (eggs, butter, persimmon fruit), made leather shoes, clothing from wool and flax, homemade medicines, and soap.
What productive resources were used in the Carver home to produce clothing? (p.7)
Natural resources/immediate goods – wool, flax, boiled bark (for dyes)
Capital resources - not mentioned, but it would take scissors, needles, tools, etc.
Human resources – Susan Carver and those in the family who helped her produce the clothes.
Even when he was a boy, George was very skilled. And throughout his life, he acquired even more skills and knowledge (i.e. human capital). What were some of his skills?
Carving and making needles for crocheting (p. 7), painting (p. 16), knowledge of horticulture and botany, scientific research skills, teaching skills.
How did George Washington Carver acquire most of his human capital?
He acquired human capital primarily through education and training. He earned advanced degrees. He got help and instruction from skilled and dedicated professors.
When George Washington Carver taught his students, was he providing a good or service?
What special service was offered to farmers who couldn’t attend classes at the university? (p. 25)
There was a mobile wagon that offered a “movable school.” This allowed many more farmers to benefit from the knowledge taught in university classes.
What was some of the knowledge that George Washington Carver taught to farmers that helped them improve the productivity of their soil? (p. 24)
Deep plowing, crop rotation, and planting crops that renewed nutrients to the soil, such as black-eyed peas and peanuts (“goobers”).
What did he produce that helped the average person/farmer learn how to increase their crop yield? (p. 28)
Bulletins and pamphlets on agricultural subjects. Land Grant universities, such as Purdue University, still produce many bulletins and pamphlets to people farm more efficiently.
What were some of the many products George Washington Carver made out of peanuts? (p. 31-33)
Peanut-derived flour, meal, and cereals. Also, candies, milk, ice cream, fruit punches, oils, instant coffee, and face cream! Also, soft cheese and mock meats.
George Washington Carver wanted a protective tariff put on peanuts. What is a tariff? (p. 33)
This is a tax put on peanuts imported from other countries. Today, in general, most economists don’t think that putting tariffs on many imports is a good idea. It keeps domestic prices higher than they would be and limits the beneficial effects of competition.
The book says that in the end, “none of Carver’s products took off: neither his peanut-based makeup, nor his sweet potato rubber, nor his soybean paints and stains.” Why do you think this was true? (p. 33)
There was obviously not enough consumer demand for these products. Because of that, the price that producers of these products would get was too low to make a profit and stay in business. But at least entrepreneurs tried to make and sell these products! Many products are not ultimately successful, but entrepreneurs are persistent in trying to find products that will satisfy consumers and make a profit.
What products did Carver make from soybeans? (picture on p.34)
Oil, cheeses, flours, and coffees
George Washington was so talented! He even produced things in his spare time when he wasn’t doing science. What were they? (p. 36)
Paintings, handicrafts such as embroideries on burlap, ornaments made of chicken feathers, seed and colored peanut necklaces, and woven textiles.
Why do you think it was so important for George Washington Carver to get a good education and improve his human capital?
Answers will vary. But without the human capital he gained from his education, society would not have benefited from his many discoveries. He could never really have promoted his scientific research without his professorship at Tuskegee Institute. His education was critical in so many ways.
Author: Tonya Bolden
Grade Level: 3-7
Accelerated Reader Level/Points: 1.0
Lexile Measure: NC1040L
Publisher: Abrams Books for Young Readers