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George Washington Carver and the Sweet Potato

Page history last edited by Seth Meador 9 years, 3 months ago








(2) 45 minute periods



Day 1:

• 4-5 whole organic sweet potatoes

(conventional sweet potatoes may

have been treated with an

anti-sprouting chemical)

• Knife

• Jars or clear plastic cups

• Toothpicks

• Biography of GW Carver such as

In the Garden with Dr. Carver by

Susan Grigsby (Teaching guide

available here:

http://www.alber twhitman.com/



Day 2:

• Prepared garden space

• Whole organic sweet potatoes

• Sweet potato nutrition facts

• Sweet potatoes and GWC handout

Whole sweet potatoes



Students plant sweet potatoes in May to be harvested by the following class

in September and learn about George Washington Carver’s contributions to



Guiding Question

Who was George Washington Carver?

What are some of his inventions?

What can you invent from something in the garden?


Engaging Students

Ask students if they’ve ever invented anything.

Read story about GWC and sweet potatoes:





What experiments can students replicate/invent with sweet potatoes in the




GWC contributed many things to the development of agriculture in the

United States.



Math: Chart growth and number of leaves of sweet potato slips.

Science: Design an invention.


Environmental Stewardship

Come up with an invention that is good for the environment.



Students can describe GWC’s importance in history and agriculture.




(outcomes: plant sweet potatoes and learn about Dr. Carver’s contributions

to agriculture)

GPS Social Studies

SS1H1 The student will read about and describe the life of historical figures

in American history.

a. Identify the contributions made by these figures: Benjamin Franklin (inventor/author/ statesman),Thomas Jefferson (Declaration of Independence), Meriwether Lewis and William Clark with Sacagawea (exploration), Harriet Tubman (Underground Railroad), Theodore Roosevelt (National Parks and the environment), George Washington Carver (science).

b. Describe how everyday life of these historical figures is similar to and different from everyday life in the present (food, clothing, homes, transportation, communication, recreation

Next Generation Science Standards

Core Idea LS1 From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes

LS1.B Growth and Development of Organisms


Background Information

George Washington Carver is well known for his work with peanuts, and he also invented hundreds of applications for sweet potatoes. Due to peanut allergies, sweet potatoes are a better choice for school garden experiments. Also, they are easy to grow, and their greens are edible as well as the tubers. This lesson takes advantage of the fact that sweet potatoes can be planted in May and grow with little care over the summer for a fall harvest.

• Growing sweet potato slips: http://www.diynetwork.com/how-to/how-to-plant-and-grow-sweet-potatoes/index.html

• Handout about how to grow sweet potato slips:




• Attached sweet potato background info


Teacher Preparation

• Choose a book from the many available about George Washington Carver’s life to share with your class.



• Recommended book: In the Garden with Dr. Carver by Susan Grigsby

• Accompanying study guide (free download):




Day 1:

•Read about George Washington Carver

•Start sweet potato slips

Day 2 (1-2 months later):

• Read handout on GWC and sweet potatoes

•Plant sweet potato slips in garden

• Look around the garden and try to see it through George Washington Carver’s eyes—come up with ideas/inventions using plants or other objects from the garden in ways that help people.


•Math: chart growth of sweet potato sprouts and/or leaves after lesson 1.

•Choose ideas/inventions from class brainstorm to actually try to carry out.


Sweet Potato Background Teaching Information

Nutrition: Sweet potatoes are a nutrient-rich food. They contain high levels of beta-carotene and vitamin E, as well as, potassium, iron and vitamin B6. Sweet potatoes are nearly fat free, cholesterol free and low in sodium. Sweet potatoes are also high in dietary fiber, which is important for a healthy digestive system. The way to get the best possible nutrition from a sweet potato is to eat the skin along with the flesh.


Colors of a sweet potato: Sweet potatoes grow in a variety of colors. Skins come in red, purple, copper, pink and flesh comes in orange, copper, cream, white and purple. The most common is the Covington sweet potato it is pink with orange flesh. The more orange the flesh the higher the nutritional content.

Using sweet potatoes: Sweet potatoes can be baked, boiled, steamed or microwaved. They are great mashed and roasted. Sweet potatoes can be used in baking (to make breads, pies, etc.) and in soups, stews and casseroles. The leaves can be harvested and cooked like spinach. The possibilities are endless!


Storing: Sweet potatoes can last for around 10 months if stored properly. They should be stored in a dry place at between 55-60ºF. Do not store in the refrigerator, refrigeration causes a hard flesh and undesirable taste.


Growing: Sweet potatoes grow best in hot places. Most of our sweet potatoes are grown in the south. They require a long period of time without frost (150 days). They are a fairly easy to plant and grow if you live in a place with the right conditions. Sweet potatoes should be harvested soon after the first frost.


Sweet Potato vs. Yam: In America we use the term “yam” and the term “sweet potato” interchangeably but in the U.S. we really mean “sweet potato”. Yams and sweet potatoes are actually a lot different. Yams are an African/Caribbean grown tuber and sweet potatoes are a storage root closely related to morning glories. Yams grow larger in size and are rougher in texture. They are starchy with dry flesh. Sweet potatoes, on the other hand (what we are familiar with), are smooth, sweet, and much smaller in size with a moist flesh. You will most likely never see a true yam in the grocery store here although they may be labeled as one. They are actually sweet potatoes!


Click the link to the PDF for worksheets. George Washington Carver and the Sweet Potato.webloc


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