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Food, Farms, and Community

Farms

“America’s farmers and ranchers make an important contribution to the U.S. economy by ensuring a safe and reliable food supply, improving energy security and supporting job growth and economic development. Agriculture is particularly important to the economies of small towns and rural areas, where farming supports a number of sectors, from farm machinery manufacturers to food processing companies.” (Joint Economic Committee of the United States Congress, 2013).

Farming practices are continually being adjusted and debated. One practice that is becoming increasingly popular for farmers and consumers is sustainable farming. “Sustainable agriculture provides high yields without undermining the natural systems and resources that productivity depends on. Farmers who take a sustainable approach work efficiently with natural processes rather than ignoring or struggling against them – and use the best of current knowledge and technology to avoid the unintended consequences of industrial, chemical-based agriculture. One important result is that farmers are able to minimize their use of pesticides and fertilizers, thereby saving money and protecting future productivity, as well as the environment” (Union of Concerned Scientists, 2014).

Farmers must be concerned with all aspects of the ecosystem and their practices must address all of the Earth’s systems such as soil and climate. Participants will learn about how many of these strategies arose through learning about the Dust Bowl. “Dry land farming on the Great Plains led to the systemic destruction of the prairie grasses. In the ranching regions, overgrazing also destroyed large areas of grassland. Gradually, the land was laid bare, and significant environmental damage began to occur. Nineteen states in the heartland of the United States became a vast dust bowl. With no chance of making a living, farm families abandoned their homes and land”(Library of Congress, 2014).

Other practices are controversial as farmers and governments work to feed the world in the next fifty years. One practice is that of genetically modified organisms, which supporters suggest can greatly increase the harvest with no to minimal issues for humans. “There is broad consensus that reducing global poverty and hunger requires accelerating growth in the agriculture sector. Recent studies suggest that every 1 percent increase in agricultural income per capita reduces the number of people living in extreme poverty by between 0.6 and 1.8 percent.” (Feed the Future, 2014).

Crosscutting concepts developed by the Next Generation Science Standards (2013) are meant to deepen understanding of concepts that bridge disciplinary boundaries. These crosscutting concepts were designed for science and engineering, but easily bridge other subject areas within and across subjects. These crosscutting concepts include:

  • Cause and effect: Mechanism and explanation. Events have causes, sometimes simple, sometimes multifaceted. A major activity of science is investigating and explaining causal relationships and the mechanisms by which they are mediated. Such mechanisms can then be tested across given contexts and used to predict and explain events in new contexts.
  • Systems and system models. Defining the system under study—specifying its boundaries and making explicit a model of that system—provides tools for understanding and testing ideas that are applicable throughout science and engineering.
  • Energy and matter: Flows, cycles, and conservation. Tracking fluxes of energy and matter into, out of, and within systems helps one understand the systems’ possibilities and limitations.

Defined STEM incorporates these ideas into a variety of the tasks highlighted as representative of farms, foods, and communities. Please review the following tasks to help build these connections in your classroom.

Elementary School

Performance Tasks

Organic Farming (gr. K)

Organic farming is becoming more and more important. Organic farming is an all natural way of farming without using chemicals or pesticides. Many people believe organic food is healthier for people and the environment. Members of your community have shown an interest in a community garden, not only to learn about organic farming work, but also to make organic vegetables the community can use. Your school would like to create a community garden in order to teach students and their families about the techniques used in organic farming. You and your team are in charge of helping create a community garden for this purpose. You will grow a variety of plants including flowers, herbs, and vegetables. You will also help pick what is ripe and deliver your crops. Your crops are the plants that you will grow in your garden.
Enter Task

Farmers and the Economy (gr.2)

Buying locally can be helpful to farmers. You want to help your community understand why this is good for the local economy. You also want to discover how it can be healthier for the people in the community and the environment. As a reporting journalist, your job is to write about the importance of buying your products locally. You will need to study and research all about farming in your area. You want to teach your community through your writing. You will be writing about what you found out in your research.
Enter Task

Organic Farming (gr.3)

Organic farming is becoming more and more important. You are a member of a team of environmentalists whose goal is to work with the local farming community and convince them organic farming is a healthier alternative to traditional farming. You will need to illustrate how the use of this practice affects not only the local community, but global society as well.
Enter Task

Business of Farming (gr.4)

For the past ten years, the number of farms going out of business in your state has grown. The governor just appointed you head of the Department of Agriculture and has made it your top priority to stop the loss of farms.
Enter Task

Literacy Tasks/Constructed Responses

Organic Farming (gr.K)

The word organic means all natural. Organic farming is to grow something only naturally without using harmful chemicals.
Enter Task

Buying Locally (gr.2)

It is important to buy our food from the local farmers. We need to find the closest farms to our town or city.
Enter Task

Choosing Crops To Grow For Your Small Organic Farm (gr.3-4)

It’s not that tricky to choose crops to grow on your small organic farm, but there are some important things to think about first.
Enter Task

Getting Seafood Through Aquaculture (gr.3-4)

Aquaculture is used around the world. It is very important for the fish business. Aquaculture is the farming of fish, shellfish, and aquatic life. This kind of farming takes place in the water. It is about growing and harvesting plants and animals in the water. Fish, shrimp, oysters, salmon, and algae are the most common items that are farmed.
Enter Task

Organic Farming (gr.3-4)

When you see the word “organic” at the grocery store, what does it mean? What makes it different from the other food sold at the store? The word “organic” refers to the way farmers grow and process agricultural products. This is according to the Mayo Clinic. These products include fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy products and meat.
Enter Task

Organic Farming Vs. Genetically Modified Organism (gr.3-4)

For the last few years a debate has been growing. Which is better, farming influenced by genetically modified crops or organic farming?
Enter Task

The Farm-To-Table Concept (gr.3-4)

Many restaurants are starting to grow their own food. Some restaurants even own their own farms and grow their own food. The farm-to- table idea started in the 1970s. Then, there were only a few places in the country doing this. Now these restaurants are very popular all over the United States. Almost every city in the United States has a restaurant that grows its own food.
Enter Task

Choosing Crops To Grow For Your Small Organic Farm (gr.5-6)

It’s not that tricky to choose organic crops to grow on your small organic farm, but there are some important issues to consider.
Enter Task

Getting Seafood Through Aquaculture (gr.5-6)

Aquaculture is used around the world. It has become very important for the fish industry. Aquaculture is the farming of fish, shellfish, and aquatic life. This farming includes the breeding, growing, and harvesting of plants and animals in the water. Fish, shrimp, oysters, salmon, and algae culture are the most common farmed.
Enter Task

Organic Farming (gr.5-6)

When you go to the grocery store look for food that has the word “organic” next to it. What does this mean? Why is it different than the same food without the word “organic” The word “organic” refers to the way farmers grow and process agricultural products according to the Mayo Clinic. These products include fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy products and meat.
Enter Task

Organic Farming Vs. Genetically Modified Organism (gr.5-6)

For the last few years a debate has been growing. Which is better, farming influenced by genetically modified crops or organic farming?
Enter Task

Middle School

Performance Tasks

Weather Scientist (gr.6)

The USDA is a federal agency that oversees the farming industry in the United States. This agency helps farmers with all aspects of the farming industry related to livestock and produce. They work with farmers related to the economics of farming. They support consumers through food safety monitoring and make forecasts related to the potential pricing of agriculturally based foods.
Enter Task

Food Truck Entrepreneur: Aquaculture and Fish Farming (gr.6)

Aquaculture is the breeding, growing and harvesting of freshwater and marine plants and animals. Freshwater aquaculture produces fish that are native to ponds, streams, and lakes. Marine water aquaculture refers to the farming of species found in the ocean. Both types of aquaculture can occur in recirculating systems that reduce, recycle and reuse water and waste that can support a variety of fish. This system is also valuable for farmers who can use the water for irrigation of farms. These systems often take place in man-made tanks.
Enter Task

Farm–to-Table Entrepreneur (gr.7)

Your region has many local farms that utilize organic farming techniques. As a member of a group of entrepreneurs who have spent a great deal of time working in the restaurant industry, you have been approached by many customers looking for a restaurant offering locally grown, sustainable whole foods. This concept has great potential, but also has great risk if you are unable to attract people to your restaurant. Many people consider healthier foods to not taste as good as foods they are more accustomed to eating in restaurants.
Enter Task

Agricultural Consultant (gr.8)

World population has been predicted to reach 9 billion people by the year 2050 and this will require a 70% increase in food production. Africa and other developing countries will be responsible for a majority of this population growth. The current food storage strategies provide minimum protection for maize and wheat after harvest. Advanced storage technology will be needed to maintain the maize and wheat after it is harvested. These advanced storage techniques will also require the farmers to be protected from storage accidents.
Enter Task

Literacy Tasks

Informative: Genetically Modified Crops (gr.6-12)

Plants that have had their DNA modified using genetic engineering techniques are considered genetically modified organisms (GMO). These alterations typically have to do with the production of plants that are more resistant to pests, diseases, chemical treatments or environmental conditions. Many people believe that these crops will be critical to helping to feed the world’s ever growing population.
Enter Task

Informative: Organic Farming (gr.6-12)

Organic farming emphasizes the use of natural resources and conservation of water and soil to help sustain the environment. This type of farming does not use synthetic fertilizers. Also, the soil and plants cannot be treated with chemicals or persistent pesticides and herbicides.
Enter Task

Informative: The Farm-to-Table Concept (gr.6-12)

After researching informational texts and articles discussing the farm-to-table concept and how it can provide a beneficial food source, write a technical report discussing the economics and value of this concept. This technical report will be shared with restaurant owners who are developing menus utilizing sustainable food sources. Support your discussion with evidence from your research. What implications can be drawn from the potential findings?
Enter Task

Informative: Aquaculture Provides Seafood (gr.7-12)

After researching informational texts and articles discussing aquaculture and how it can be a beneficial food source, write a technical report discussing the value of this form of farming and how it is mplemented. This technical report will be shared with restaurant owners who are developing menus utilizing sustainable food sources. Support your discussion with evidence from your research. What implications can be drawn from the potential findings?
Enter Task

Argumentative: How does the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act impact small farms and restaurants? (gr.6-12)

After researching technical and informational articles related to the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, write a position paper that argues your position on whether or not the new legislation negatively impacts small farms and restaurants. This position paper will be shared with people affiliated with the restaurant industry at a national conference. Support your discussion with evidence from your research. What implications can be drawn from the potential findings?
Enter Task

Argumentative: Organic Farming vs. Conventional Farming (gr.6-12)

After researching technical and academic articles on organic farming, write a position paper that argues your position, pro or con, on whether or not organic farming is more worthwhile and economical than conventional farming. This position paper will be shared with lawmakers working on farming legislation. Support your discussion with evidence from your research. What implications can be drawn from the potential findings?
Enter Task

Argumentative: Organic Vs. Genetically Modified Crops (gr.6-12)

Organic farming emphasizes the use of natural resources and conservation of water and soil to help sustain the environment. This type of farming does not use synthetic fertilizers. Also, the soil and plants cannot be treated with chemicals or persistent pesticides and herbicides.
Enter Task

Argumentative: Is Aquaculture An Appropriate Method Of Harvesting Seafood? (gr.7-12)

After researching informational texts and background materials discussing aquaculture, write a position paper that argues your position, pro or con, on whether or not the aquaculture farms should be allowed along the coastal waters of the United States. This position paper will be shared with restaurant owners who utilize the harvested seafood in their restaurants. They will be considering your findings as they develop a policy statement to share with federal lawmakers. Support your discussion with evidence from your research and be sure to consider alternate points of view.
Enter Task

High School

Performance Tasks

Agricultural Lobbyist (gr.10)

Supporters point to a multitude of potential benefits of engineered crops, including increased yield, tolerance of drought, reduced pesticide use, more efficient use of fertilizers, and ability to produce drugs or other useful chemicals. Genetic engineering has been hailed by some as an indispensable tool for solving the world’s food problems, and denounced by others as an example of human overreaching fraught with unknown, potentially catastrophic dangers.
Enter Task

Grain Farmer (gr.11)

In order to optimize the value of grain, storage facilities are a critical part of the farm system. Due to national and international economics, more and more grain is being sold at market rather than being used for family subsistence. New varieties of grain and high yields increase the need for storage facilities that minimize loss of grain to temperature, moisture, and pests. New technologies have entered the market place, which help to automate the storage environment, thus maximizing the grain that can enter the marketplace. These technologies also add safety measures to help those working in the storage bins.
Enter Task

Literacy Tasks

Informative: Genetically Modified Crops (gr.6-12)

Plants that have had their DNA modified using genetic engineering techniques are considered genetically modified organisms (GMO). These alterations typically have to do with the production of plants that are more resistant to pests, diseases, chemical treatments or environmental conditions. Many people believe that these crops will be critical to helping to feed the world’s ever growing population.
Enter Task

Informative: Organic Farming (gr.6-12)

Organic farming emphasizes the use of natural resources and conservation of water and soil to help sustain the environment. This type of farming does not use synthetic fertilizers. Also, the soil and plants cannot be treated with chemicals or persistent pesticides and herbicides.
Enter Task

Informative: The Farm-to-Table Concept (gr.6-12)

After researching informational texts and articles discussing the farm-to-table concept and how it can provide a beneficial food source, write a technical report discussing the economics and value of this concept. This technical report will be shared with restaurant owners who are developing menus utilizing sustainable food sources. Support your discussion with evidence from your research. What implications can be drawn from the potential findings?
Enter Task

Informative: Aquaculture Provides Seafood (gr.7-12)

After researching informational texts and articles discussing aquaculture and how it can be a beneficial food source, write a technical report discussing the value of this form of farming and how it is mplemented. This technical report will be shared with restaurant owners who are developing menus utilizing sustainable food sources. Support your discussion with evidence from your research. What implications can be drawn from the potential findings?
Enter Task

Argumentative: How does the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act impact small farms and restaurants? (gr.6-12)

After researching technical and informational articles related to the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, write a position paper that argues your position on whether or not the new legislation negatively impacts small farms and restaurants. This position paper will be shared with people affiliated with the restaurant industry at a national conference. Support your discussion with evidence from your research. What implications can be drawn from the potential findings?
Enter Task

Argumentative: Organic Farming vs. Conventional Farming (gr.6-12)

After researching technical and academic articles on organic farming, write a position paper that argues your position, pro or con, on whether or not organic farming is more worthwhile and economical than conventional farming. This position paper will be shared with lawmakers working on farming legislation. Support your discussion with evidence from your research. What implications can be drawn from the potential findings?
Enter Task

Argumentative: Organic Vs. Genetically Modified Crops (gr.6-12)

Organic farming emphasizes the use of natural resources and conservation of water and soil to help sustain the environment. This type of farming does not use synthetic fertilizers. Also, the soil and plants cannot be treated with chemicals or persistent pesticides and herbicides.
Enter Task

Argumentative: Is Aquaculture An Appropriate Method Of Harvesting Seafood? (gr.7-12)

After researching informational texts and background materials discussing aquaculture, write a position paper that argues your position, pro or con, on whether or not the aquaculture farms should be allowed along the coastal waters of the United States. This position paper will be shared with restaurant owners who utilize the harvested seafood in their restaurants. They will be considering your findings as they develop a policy statement to share with federal lawmakers. Support your discussion with evidence from your research and be sure to consider alternate points of view.
Enter Task

References

 

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