Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Climbing Kansas Mountains

This past week, we "rowed" our next FIAR book, Climbing Kansas Mountains by George Shannon.  Amazon's synopsis of this book reads, "Simmering illustrations full of visual surprises record the journey of a father and his son, trading wordplay and affection as they go, to the towering grain elevators that dot the Kansas landscape in the mid-day heat."  This book was full of metaphor and we enjoyed it.
After reading it the first time, we placed our story disk for this book on Kansas on our US map.
We read more about Kansas in The United States of America: A State-by-State Guide by Millie Miller
and Cyndi Nelson, page 21.
On that page, we noted the Kansas state bird, the meadowlark.  It's such a beautiful bird!  We then recalled ...
... that on the dedication page of Climbing Kansas Mountains there is an illustration of a meadowlark.
From there, we read more about the meadowlark in United Tweets of America: 50 State Birds by Hudson Talbott.  (This book is so cute!)
(The illustrations in this book are adorable!)
We also observed and listened to a Western Meadowlark on YouTube at (below).  Love their song!

I then challenged Mags to accurately color the Western Meadowlark using the free download at (below).
 Looks great, Mags!
In the book, Sam (the son) thinks of the time that he and his father made a flour-dough map of Kansas together, "that barely had a bump."  (He was referring to the lack of mountains in this very flat state.)  We decided to make our own flour-dough map of Kansas.  Here, Maggie is drawing the map in pencil on some cardboard.
Ready to make our dough!
Once our dough was the right consistency, we started to shape it onto our cardboard against the lines we drew.
We added printed images of the state flag and the meadowlark to our map using toothpicks.
Our final addition was two little stalks of wheat, representing all the wheat grown there.  (One of its nicknames is "The Wheat State.")
We did our best to make a map that "barely had a bump."
Mags and her Daddy decided to make some bread together when he was home over the weekend.
 It turned out beautifully!  They made two, huge loaves!
We did some pretty big mathematics problems with this book study, too.

First, we talked about what the height of some of these grain elevators ("Kansas mountains") might be.  The book described them "as tall as eight houses stacked."  One-story houses are typically 10-12 feet high, and two-story houses are typically 20-24 feet high.  So, using the description from the book and multiplication, we determined the grain elevators are between 80 and 192 feet high!

Next, we did some grain measurements.  Grain is measured in bushels.
A bushel measure is also 8 gallons.  Here, Mags is holding up a gallon measure with some stalks of wheat in it.  Eight of these would make a bushel.  If a successful farmer got 100 bushels of grain from one acre of his 6,400-acre farm, that means he would harvest 640,000 bushels in one season!  That's 5,120,000 gallons!  Whoa!  And since most farmers grow in two seasons of the year, that would mean 1,280,000 bushels, or 10,240,000 gallons of wheat per year!  Wild!
We did one final math problem when we read that one bushel of wheat can make 42 loaves of white bread (more if we're talking whole wheat bread and the whole kernel is used).  Figuring again that we have a successful 6,400-acre farm, we determined that one farm could produce 26,880,000 loaves in one season (or 53,760,000 loaves in a year)!  Crazy!
After an image search on Google, we found this image, which shows the wheat crop for all of Kansas for one year.  No wonder it's called "The Wheat State"!

There are so many great wheat resources at  We dove into the "Story of Wheat" booklet from their site at
From that resource, we were able to download activity pages to identify the parts of a wheat kernel, label a wheat plant, unscramble words associated with the wheat industry, and complete a crossword puzzle with words of wheat foods.
We also watched this "Farm to Market" YouTube video about wheat production, below (
Kansas is part of the "Breadbasket of the United States," that is, the area of our country that produces the most wheat.  For one last activity, I thought it would be fun to make our own bread basket using the instructions we found at  Here is a picture of our bread dough, rolled out and cut into strips for our basket weaving.  (A plastic pizza cutter worked like a charm for this!)
Here are our strips, weaved over our heavily-buttered bowl.
We added a thick braid to the bottom.
I was so worried this would crack before we got the bowl out, but it turned out perfectly!  Maggie was thrilled!
 Our bread basket!
 It was a fun end to another great row!
Happy homeschooling!

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