CAPSTONE: Feeding 9 billion through sustainable farm design (3 of 3)

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In addition to the objectives from parts one and two, by the end of the thir part of the Food CAPSTONE experience, student will be able to 1) give and receive feedback that improves prototypes through iteration and 2) present a final solution idea to an outside panel of students, teachers, and community professionals.

Big Idea

The human population will approach 9 billion by 2050, but our current food system was not designed to sustainably feed so many. How might we apply our understanding of agricultural methods to feed 9 billion people in an environmentally sustainable manner?

FRAME: Advocates for change

In Stage Two of the Food CAPSTONE students learned about the design challenge that they would undertake to develop solution ideas to the problem statements developed during Stage One. How might we design a sustainable farm that, if adopted at large scale, would sustainably meet the food needs of the global human population? During the prototyping stage, students actively collaborated with each and utilized a sustainability calculator to meet defined constraints.  

By the end of Stage Two, students had met the following objectives: 

  1. explain constraints impacting potential solutions to problems posed by the global food system and ideate solutions

  2. design a prototype sustainable farm as a solution to specific problems

This third lesson is "Stage Three" (Approximate time is three class periods)

During Stage Three, students will present design ideas to peers in a baby shark tank.  Baby sharks (student audience) will first read a presenting team's design proposal and examine the created visual.  Then teams will present design ideas and facilitate a feedback session with baby sharks.  Baby sharks complete a paper feedback form and then provide verbal comments.  Students will use this feedback to iterate presented sustainable farm solutions.  Teams will then present work to the Jaws panel (sharks consisting of other students, teachers, and available community professionals).  The Jaws panel will evaluate student work against rubrics and provide final feedback.  The presenting groups synthesizes feedback and then targets one community-based organization that they want to meet with to get feedback on their farm plan. 

By the end of Stage Three, students will have met these objectives:

  1. give and receive feedback that improves prototypes through iteration
  2. present a final solution idea to an outside panel of students, teachers, and community professionals

By the end of Stage Two, students should have an iterated prototype of a sustainable farm that solves the problems articulated in Stage One.  Students should be able to articulate the logic of the choices made in the farm design and solicit feedback for these choices from community stakeholders.


  1. The first is a prototype activity guide that might be modified by teachers for classroom use.  It contains a number of resources used to support students with this CAPSTONE.  
  2. The second is a prototypes rubric used to evaluate this project.  

COLLABORATION NOTE: I owe a special thanks to my colleagues Scott Larsen (here he is in Wall Street Journal article about blended learning) and Katie McCarthy for collaboration on this work. 

TESTING: Baby shark tank

110 minutes

What is the purpose of this section?

Student groups present prototype sustainable farm designs and receive feedback from the class. Presenting groups take this feedback and incorporate it into iterations of the presented farm design.  Iterated farm design will be presented to an audience of outside stakeholders in the ITERATION activity.  

What will students do? 

All students will sit with their teams.  Presentations will take approximately 20 minutes and follow a different format than previous presentations in this unit.  Here are the steps for these Baby Shark Tank presentations:

  1. The presenting group emails the teacher links to both the visual and the written documents developed for the presentation.  These documents must be Google documents and both should be set so that anybody with the link can make edits in a "suggesting" mode.  
  2. The teacher sends these links to all students within a class via Edmodo.  Here is what this looks like for students.
  3. Audience students have seven minutes to read the document and examine the visual.  During this time, students are actively "suggesting" edits.  Here is what this will look like for students.  And here is an example of considered feedback.
  4. Students teams present their work for THREE minutes.
  5. Audience members rate the presentation using the rubric. Group members discuss ratings with each other. Only one rating per category is allowed.
  6. The presenting feedback facilitates a feedback discussion.  The protocol for this feedback discussion is the same one used for previous "flash publications":
    • The class first asks clarifying questions.  These are questions of fact that clarify confusing aspects of presentation.
    • The class then offers warm feedback.  This feedback consists of positive aspects of the presentation.
    • The class next offers cool feedback.  This feedback consists of suggestions, new ideas, alternative takes, and wonderings.  Cool feedback is not necessarily negative; rather it is feedback that pushes the thinking of the presenting group.
    • The presenting group offers a final summary of its response to feedback.
  7. The teacher collects the rubric each audience group has completed and gives these to the presenting group for iteration. 

What will the teacher do?

The teacher manages the logistics of the presentations.  This means that the teacher communicates and models the format, ensures that all digital submissions are shared with all students in a class, and helps to facilitate the feedback debrief if necessary. 

What is the ideal learning outcome for this section?

At the end of these presentations presenting students should have a range of feedback ideas for improving the sustainable farm prototypes. Students providing feedback should have accurately assessed presenting students against the rubric and noted at least one concrete change that a presenting team could make.  Teachers may want to stop after the first presentation to norm the use of the rubric, especially if there is a wide range of student scoring.  About half of all scores for each category should be the same, and the remaining scores should be only one point above or below.  If there is no majority score, or if scores are more than a point above or below, norming is essential.  In other words, if most students think that a presenting team deserved a "2" but the remaining students think the presenting team deserves a "4" there is a problem.

RESOURCES NOTES: Attached are five presentation proposals and the accompanying visuals for groups that created digital visuals.  These cover a range of competencies and elicited a range of feedback suggestions.  How would you suggest each group iterates?

ITERATION: Jaws is here!

55 minutes

What is the purpose of this activity?

Students present the next iteration of their farm design to outside stakeholders, including other teacher, school staff, parents, and local community leaders when possible.  This audience provides feedback through the RUBRIC and nominates one group from each class as the "MPP" or "Most Promising Prototype."  As a final reflection, the MPP group investigates local community groups that work with food justice or farming issues and request a presentation and feedback session with that group.  This activity is exactly the same as the BABY SHARK TANK activity except that the sharks will not give verbal feedback to each group.  This is simply because of time limitations.


UNIT REFLECTION: Keep, Change, Add

Overall, this unit was a success!  Students enjoyed the material, gained experience with mathematical tools used in Environmental science, developed presentations skills, used engineering design thinking to solve problems, engaged with the community, and connected STEM content to the choices they make in their daily lives.  And students were able to do this while meeting the majority of lesson objectives at a proficient level.  This debrief consists of a short "keep, change, add" protocol that I will use with student to debrief lessons.


  • Students gave these lessons the highest ratings:
    • Have Food, Will Travel
    • community food survey
    • farm tour
    • DESIGN CHALLENGE: food labels
    • DESIGN LAB: Nitrogen


  • Too many presentations-diversify assessments
  • Too many content strands-either build out agriculture unit or focus on sustainability in the second half of the unit


  • Progress trackers for students: an example is attached as a resource
  • Field experience with soil