We had come to this dry area . . . and we had paused in it and built our houses and we were slowly creating the legend of our life. We were digging for water and we were leading streams through the dry land. We were planting and ploughing and standing in the midst of the garden that we were making.

~ William Saroyan

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Lesson Plan 3

California’s Central Valley:
How We Shaped the Land

Grade Level: 8th
Standards: 8.12 (1) (5)



1.  Learn how California’s Central Valley was developed between 1850 and 1900

2.  Learn how the Valley was marketed to the rest of the world in the 19th century

3.  Discover what developments in the Valley (e.g., inventions, pioneering efforts) led to the development of  the Valley as an agricultural leader

4.  Explore how marketing affected immigration to the California’s Central Valley between 1850 and 1900

5.  Experience the process of thinking through and producing a 19th century promotional piece on the Valley

6.  Discover the value of ephemera as primary source material



1.  Examples of 19th Century promotional pieces

2.  Access to the internet

3.  Central Valley history bibliography

4.  Materials for production of promotional pieces



1.  Prepare students to produce a 19th century promotional publication on the Valley by downloading examples of 19th century promotional material and examining them.  Discuss what can be learned from the material.  Discuss how this material relates to the settlement of the West in the later part of the 19th century.

2.  Break students up into four groups and assign each group a piece of the Valley story:

19th century railroad development

The Colony Farm System

Geology of the Valley (compare it with other fertile valleys in the world, early descriptions of the Valley, crops)

19th century irrigation projects

3.  Instruct each group to research their topic and develop pages for the promotional book that include: 


Information on key people involved

Primary source material





4.  Ask each group to present their material to the rest of the class

5.  Compile all pages into one promotional piece on the Valley.

6.  Discuss who would most likely promote the Valley today, to whom and why?

7.  Invite a developer to talk with the class about how land is developed today.  Ask students to compare development in the Central Valley today with development 100 to 150 years ago.

Last Updated Monday, November 12, 2018 - 12:49 PM.