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Plant Agriculture

Despite the necessity of food for our survival, many of us have a very limited understanding of where it comes from and how it is produced. This is a byproduct of the increasing urbanization of our culture. This unit seeks to give students a basic understanding of the modern food production system. The unit begins with a study of the human-generated causes of the Dust Bowl, and how much farming has changed since the early 20th century. Students will learn about the Green Revolution and all the advances in irrigation, pesticide application, fertilizers, and even the use of Genetically Modified Organisms.


Plant Agriculture Powerpoint

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Plant Agriculture Powerpoint lecture

Purpose: This lecture begins with some background of where farming was at before the Green Revolution, back when the European settlers were first moving into the Midwest Plains of the United States. Students will learn about the importance of soil, plant crops, and the tremendous amount of change that has occured in farming technology since the 1960s. Finally, we end by looking at the future of farming, specifically in regards to the increased proliferation of Genetically Modified Organisms.

Essential Concepts: Food and agriculture, plant agriculture, Dust Bowl, wind erosion, water erosion, soil horizons, famine, undernutrition, malnutrition, Green Revolution, irrigation, fertilizers, pesticides, organic agriculture, genetically modified organisms.


Plant Agriculture Lecture Notes Outline

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Plant Agriculture lecture notes outline.

Purpose: Taking efficient notes can be a big challenge for many students, especially when working from a Powerpoint lecture. This outline gives students a means to take notes that guides them toward important concepts and avoids the pitfalls of writing word-for-word or simply not taking notes at all. The outline is written as a series of questions, fill-in-the-blanks, or diagrams. This outline is based on the Powerpoint lecture written specifically for this unit.

Essential Concepts: Food and agriculture, plant agriculture, Dust Bowl, wind erosion, water erosion, soil horizons, famine, undernutrition, malnutrition, Green Revolution, irrigation, fertilizers, pesticides, organic agriculture, genetically modified organisms.


Graphing the Dust Bowl Activity

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Graphing the Dust Bowl Activity

Purpose: There were a lot of factors that made the Dust Bowl the ecological disaster that it was, but the biggest was the prolonged drought that struck the region in the early 1930s. This activity will guide students through some data sets that compares the monthly precipitation levels before and during the drought to average levels that are experienced today. Students will use climatographs, giving a good connection to topics covered during the Land Ecosystems unit.

Essential Concepts: Dust Bowl, climatographs, average temperature, average precipitation, drought.


Food, Inc. Student Worksheet

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Food Inc Worksheet

Purpose: This 2009 documentary covers many of the unseen consequences of the industrialized agriculture system, including impacts on both plant and animal agriculture. The first segment explores the underside of factory farms and meat processing plants. The second segment looks at the effects of a diet heavy in processed foods on human health. Finally, a discussion of the future of foods and the growth of the organic industry is shown. This worksheet contains critical thinking questions for students to consider and answer as they watch each segment of the documentary.

Essential Concepts: Agriculture, factory farming, industrialized agriculture, nutrition, human health, malnutrition, food poisoning, subtheraputic antibiotics, animal welfare.


King Corn Student Worksheet

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Download the King Corn worksheet.

Purpose: This 2009 documentary, better than any other I've seen, explores the changes that have occured in plant agriculture since the Green Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, and how government subsidy programs have influenced our entire food system. Two friends go to Iowa and lease an acre of farmland to grow their own corn. In the process, they learn about fertilizers, tractors, herbicides, and the eventual fate of the corn they produce -- likely as animal feed or a sweetener called high fructose corn syrup.

Essential concepts: Plant agriculture, corn, herbicides, fertilizer, Green Revolution, farm subsidies.


Dirt! The Movie - Student Worksheet

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Dirt the Movie Student Worksheet.

Purpose: One of the overlooked aspects of food and agriculture is the importance of soil. A quick glance at a map of the most impaired soils around the world reveals that this is a growing issue, especially in the most productive areas. Multiple famines throughout history, the Dust Bowl being the most famous, are the direct result of the misuse and abuse of soil. This documentary seeks to show students the importance of caring for soil, giving perspectives of people from multiple different cultures.

Essential concepts:Agriculture, factory farming, industrialized agriculture, monocultures, topsoil, impaired soil, erosion.


Future of Food Student Worksheet

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Future of Food Student Worksheet

Purpose: Genetically modified organisms -- corn, soy, and papaya, have been legal to use in the United States for over 10 years. A lot of questions are still being raised, however, about whether the use of these crops is really beneficial. The Future of Food provides a comprehensive look at this issue, covering every aspect of the issue, including how GMOs are made, whether copyrighting life is ethical, the health and environmental concerns, and the legal troubles that some farmers have come into as the result of growing Monsanto-owned seed.

Essential concepts: Plant agriculture, genetically modified organisms, food copyright, Food and Drug Administration, Monsanto, gene flow.


Labelling Genetically Modified Organisms Essay Assignment

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GMO Labeling Essay Assignment

Purpose: The use of Genetically Modified corn and soy is easily the one of the most controversial aspects to our food system. Trying to navigate this issue is extraordinary difficult given the amount information, misinformation, and opinion available. This assignment narrows down the issue to one important aspect: should genetically modified foods be labeled? Students will watch an episode of the BBC Horizon television show called "Jimmy's GM Food Fight" for background, then read an editorial discussing each side of the issue before finally putting their own ideas to paper.

Essential concepts:Genetically modified organisms, GMOs, food labelling.


Writing Prompt - "Mystery Ingredients"

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Download Microsoft Word Document

Purpose: This journal writing assignment has students take an ingredients list from a processed food item, research each one, and determine its purpose. The goal is to draw attention to the huge number of corn and soy products that are added to many foods to enhance their flavor, texture, or shelf-life.

Essential Concepts: Food processing, food additives, nutrition, ingredients, food labeling.


Plant Agriculture Study Guide

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Plant Agriculture Study Guide

Purpose: Once the instruction for the unit is completed, students can complete this study guide to aid in their preparation for a written test. The study guide is divided into two sections: vocabulary and short answer questions. The vocabulary is taken directly form the lecture, sequentially. The short answer questions are meant to model the type they may see on the exam.

Essential Concepts: Food and agriculture, plant agriculture, Dust Bowl, wind erosion, water erosion, soil horizons, famine, undernutrition, malnutrition, Green Revolution, irrigation, fertilizers, pesticides, organic agriculture, genetically modified organisms.


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