Farmer's National Bank: "The Jewel Box of the Prairie"

Home Education Landmark Lesson Farmer's National Bank: "The Jewel Box of the Prairie"

Farmer's National Bank: "The Jewel Box of the Prairie"

This lesson will link math number sense, coin recognition, and Minnesota microeconomics standards of how individuals, businesses, and government interact and exchange goods and services.  This bank is an important landmark and focal point of Owatonna’s downtown square.  Its inclusion and history will help children build connections to their community, while learning the foundations of number sense.

For teachers in other locales, a local bank with interesting architectural details could be substituted for Farmer's National.


Owatonna , MN

Type of Landmark




Learning Objectives

  • Students will be able to recognize Farmer’s National Bank and identify one reason why it is important to Owatonna.  
  • Students will be able to identify at least one coin and state its value.


Suggested Books for Shared Reading Experiences:

  • Bunny Money by Rosemary Wells
  • One Cent, Two Cents, Old Cent, New Cent: All About Money by Bonnie Worth
  • A Dollar for Penny: A Math Reader by Dr. Julie Glass
  • If You Made A Million by David M. Schwartz

Primary Source Book:

  • The Curve of the Arch: The Story of Louis Sullivan's Owatonna Bank by Larry Millet


Louis Sullivan: the Struggle for American Architecture


National Farmer's Bank Building from The Prairie School Traveler

Suggested Instructional Procedures

Over the course of a two weeks, the unique landmark of Farmer’s National Bank will be explored, to speak to the children about how we use the town square for the Farmer’s Market, community band concerts, Christmas parades, and how the bank is the backdrop for many of Owatonna’s community events.

Coins and their value and how money is used will be introduced and explored, in the following ways:

1) In a daily tweet and weekly newsletter one week prior to our investigations, invite families to point out and notice banks as they go about errands in Owatonna.

2)Shared readings during our Math block each day with rereading each book at least once.

3) Rubbings with crayon to help with identifying the face and back of each coin as they are introduced.

4) Math guided centers:  balancing coin value, trading coins to create equal value, counting by five’s with nickels, create tallies with popsicle sticks, and use of lemonade stand to “play” with buying and selling with pretend money.

5) Discussions about coins, money and how it is used, how people get and use money, where money is stored, and how families use banks. 

6) During Morning Meeting for a week, ask children what they have noticed about banks around town.  Create a chart to record their responses.  Save this chart to refer when creating a Venn Diagram.

7) On the Smartboard, share the youtube video of the details of the Farmer’s National Bank as well as photos and information about this gorgeous landmark in Owatonna.

8) As a whole group, ask students to identify what they believe is special about this particular bank.  Create a new chart to record their answers.

9)As a class, create a Venn diagram using the two charts, to compare and contrast Farmer’s Bank to other banks students have seen.


Penny: A unit of U.S. currency worth one hundredth of a U.S. Dollar.

Nickel: A unit of U.S. currency worth five hundredths of a U.S. Dollar.

Dime: A unit of U.S. currency worth one tenth of a U.S. Dollar.

Quarter: A unit of U.S. currency worth one quarter of a U.S. Dollar. 

Value: A measure of worth assigned to a person, place, or thing.

Money: An object which people assign value to, and exchange with one another for goods and services. 

Bank: A depository of money that issues credit based off of their reserves of cash which people deposit within it.

Saving: An amount of something that is not spent or used.M

Price: The cost of an item or a service.

Town Square: A central location in a town where people gather for civic or cultural events.

End of Lesson Assessment

In writing journals, ask students to illustrate something that they believe is special about the Farmer’s Bank.  When students have had a chance to create their idea, they will “turn and talk” with 2 others to explain why they believe the bank is important.

In math journals, ask students to draw or create a rubbing of a coin and write its value.

Students will have achieved the learning objectives if they can provide a detail specific to Farmer’s Bank and if they can remember at least one coin and its value.

Background Material for Teacher

Quick information:  Carl Bennett was the son of a banker in Owatonna, MN.  He wanted to be a concert musician, but was told by his father who had paid for his education, that he needed to run the bank.  He did as was asked, but was able to express his artistic nature in the creation of a beautiful new bank with Sullivan.  As the bank was being built, Sullivan wrote, “I want a color symphony…”  What an intriguing way to incorporate the love of music into the new bank.  There are also many B’s, for Bennett, interspersed in the design of the bank.

National Register of Historic Places Nomination

Minnesota Architecture: National Farmer’s Bank in Owatonna from MPR News

Louis Sullivan's Owatonna Bank from MPR News