Arizona’s Five C’s help students learn state history, economics

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — For decades elementary students in our state have been learning about the 5 C’s of Arizona.

In the early years of our state, the 5 C’s played an important role in our economy. While not quite as important today, the 5 C’s remain ‘Absolutely Arizona.’

“I asked what the 5 C’s were and cactus came up quite a bit.

And cactus is not one of the 5 C’s.”

~ Fourth Grade teacher Niki Tilicki, Innovation Academy

Niki Tilicki teaches 4th grade at Innovation Academy.

Her class knows now that the 5 C’s of Arizona does not include cactus.

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School kids around the state learn about the important role the 5 C’s play in Arizona’s economy, usually around the third grade.

In the Amphi District, they learn them in fourth grade.

At Innovation Academy, the students actually teach the 5 C’s.

“Because when a student can be the teacher, then we know that the 5 C’s are safe for life,” said Tilicki. “When Arizona first became a state people came here because of the 5 C’s.”

So what are the 5 Cs of Arizona?

Maybe you were taught them in school, like Dave DeWalt.

“The 5 C’s are just an identification of what Arizona is,” DeWalt said.

DeWalt learned the 5 C’s of Arizona growing up near Benson. A USDA Statistician in Phoenix, he is an expert on the subject.

“The main C’s: cattle, citrus and cotton were always of interest to me,” said DeWalt. “Of course we have the best climate, especially this time of year.”

As one of Tilicki’s students told the class, “Arizona is the third hottest place in America. We have lots of sunny days, about 300 days of sunshine.”

Those sunny days make several of the other C’s possible, especially citrus.

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“Arizona’s sun and soil are wonderful to grow a variety of citrus such as… lemons, grapefruit, mandarins, kumquats and limes. If left on the tree, citrus fruits do not become overripe. They become sweeter and less acidic, yum.”

But DeWalt says growing citrus in Arizona isn’t as sweet as it once was. There were about 70,000 acres of citrus grown in Arizona in the 1970s. And now?

“Somewhere around the 10,000 acre area,” said DeWalt.

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“Arizona cotton is some of the whitest and high-quality cotton,” students told the class. “Because our cotton is so white, it is really good for Arizona’s economy. People spend a lot of money on Pima Cotton clothes.”

Cotton remains one of Arizona’s biggest cash crops, with the highly sought after Pima Cotton grown in our state.

But the number of cotton acres farmed in Arizona has dropped dramatically from its high of 630,000 acres in 1981.

“Now we’re down to into the, I think last year was 129,000 acres,” DeWalt said.

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“Cattle are raised in every county in Arizona.”

Like most of the 5 C’s, cattle numbers are also down. In 1918, there were 1.75 million head of cattle. That number now stands at about one million.

But one area is on the rise.

“It’s the dairy industry that’s grown, maybe doubled in the last 20 years,” DeWalt said. “We’re up to close to 200,000 head of milk cows.”

The final C is the most profitable.

Arizona produces about a quarter of the U.S. demand for copper, worth billions annually, depending on the price of copper.

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“Arizona produces more copper than all the 50 states.”

But copper uses a lot of water to mine. The other four C’s require water as well.

That has Mrs. Tilicki’s class concerned.

“Because water is so vital. If we only think about mining and growing things, and we don’t think about that water piece, Arizona’s going to suffer,” Tilicki said.

If Mrs. Tilicki’s class is any indication, Arizona and its 5 C’s are in very good hands—keeping the resources and economy ‘Absolutely Arizona.’

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Pat Parris is an anchor and reporter for KGUN 9. He is a graduate of Sabino High School where he was the 1982 high school state track champion in the 800 meters. While in high school and college, he worked part-time in the KGUN 9 newsroom. Share your story ideas and important issues with Pat by emailing [email protected] or by connecting on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.