Quentin Burdick Center for Cooperatives


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CHS Foundation
National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation, Dulles, VA

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High School Cooperatives Lessons

Agricultural Education and Business Education teachers from across North Dakota collaborated to develop a Cooperatives instructional unit that includes various lesson plans, case studies, activities, and supporting materials.

USDA Cooperatives Information Report 55

These high school lessons were designed as an introduction to cooperatives and follow the "Co-ops 101: An Introduction to Cooperatives" report booklet from USDA Rural Development.


Quick Link Lesson Plans
(MS Word, PDF)


Introduction to Cooperatives

This lesson includes a brief look at the historical perspective of cooperatives, as well as cooperative principles and practices such as the user-benefits, user-owner, and user-control principles, the patronage refund system, limited return on equity capital, and cooperation among cooperatives.

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Cooperatives in the Community

    This lesson addresses cooperatives in the community--how they work and how they benefit the community. The four primary sectors of cooperatives addressed are financial, consumer service, business, and farmer cooperatives.

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    (MS Word, PDF)

Benefits of Cooperation

    This lesson guides students to understanding the benefits associated with cooperatives.

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    (MS Word, PDF)

Business Organizations

    This lesson examines the various types of business organizations such as individually owned businesses, partnerships, general business corporations, limited liability companies, and a cooperative.

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     (MS Word, PDF)

Classifying Cooperatives by Structure

    This lesson classifies cooperatives by their structure that includes the geographic territory served by the cooperative, the governance system, and the functions performed.

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    This lesson addresses the individuals and team elements that make up a successful cooperative. It looks at the members, directors (officers and board committees), managers, and employees.

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Sources of Equity

    This lesson aids students in understanding user ownership and the various ways cooperatives can accumulate equity such as through direct investment, retained margins, per-unit capital retains, and non-member/non-patronage earnings.

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Financial & Tax Planning

    This lesson describes various sources of equity associated with financial and tax planning. Focus is placed on cash refunds, qualified retains, non-qualified retains, and unallocated reserves.

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Equity Management

    This lesson focuses on understanding the factors affecting how cooperatives manage the redemption of outstanding equity.

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     (MS Word, PDF)


Cooperatives Case Studies

  • American Crystal Sugar
  • Basin Electric Power
  • Cass County Electric
  • CHS, Inc.
  • CoBank
  • North American Bison
  • Northland Educators Federal Credit Union
  • National Information Solutions
  • Reservation Telephone Cooperative


Pre/Post Test

Download this assessment (MS Word, PDF)


*Note: Since these lessons were first developed, a revised report has become available. The foundations of these original lessons will continue to serve as an educational resource about cooperatives. The new report provides up-dated information about cooperatives and can be obtained from USDA Rural Development, Cooperative Information Report 55.

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