When students think of farming, they often think of horses, tractors, fields of plants, cows grazing, etc. This picture is no longer totally accurate. Most farming for the foods we eat is done on huge farms with many modern pieces of machinery, as well as chemicals that enhance plant growth or limit bug infestation. Some of these advances are positive, but others may have dangerous side effects. The purpose of this lesson is to help students understand some of the pros and cons of technology on farms and to be able to take part in a simple debate.
One of the extensions of the NGSS (2-ESS2-1) for second grade states that developing and using technology has impacts on the natural world. Farming is place where technology has had profound positive and negative effects. Technology has made it possible to grow greater amounts of food on smaller pieces of land. Technology has also made it possible to clear great amounts of the rainforest to allow for farming. The technology has had a profound effect on the natural world. This lesson allows students to think about both the positive and negative effects that technology can have on the natural world of growing things.
The Next Generation Science Standards want students to be able to defend an argument based on the information they collect. The standards also include the influence of technology on plants. This lesson attempts to incorporate these two ideas into a single lesson.
I ask students to read the I Can Statement out loud. It reads, “ I can study one use of technology on a farm and discuss if it is good or bad for the crops.”
I ask, “What do you think it means by the use of technology on a farm?” Students often relate the word technology to computers, IPADS, IPHONEs and video games so responses are probably about using computers, etc. I ask, “do you remember when we looked at an apple peeler, a stapler and other simple tools? Were they forms of technology?” (yes). If students don’t remember, I might go over how technology means a way to improve or simplify a way of doing things.
“Can you think of other technologies that might be on a farm?” (tractors, plows, etc.)
“Yes, these are all forms of technology. What did the farmer do before he had a tractor or a plow?” (He had his horse pull the plow. He did it by hand.)
I let students share other farm technologies they can think of and we think of what happened before this technology was invented.
“Today we are going to look at some examples of technology and decide what they do to help plants grow, and if the technology is good or bad or some of each.”
I collect a number of books that have pictures of current day farms and farmers. I ask students to look through the several books on their tables. I ask them to identify at least 2 forms of technology they see in the pictures that they would like to talk about with others. I say, “today I want you to look through the picture books of farming that you will find on your tables. Find at least 2 examples of farm technology and write them both on your paper. Look at the picture carefully and think about how that technology is helping the farmer to grow plants. Write down your ideas under the name of the picture on your paper. Try to find 2 different forms of technology, so you wouldn’t pick a plow and a tractor because they are similar, try to find 2 things that are different.”
I ask for a student to repeat the directions. I ask for a thumbs up to make sure all students know what to do, and then I let students work on finding 2 examples of farm technology.
I ask students to write their names on both of their technology discoveries and then cut the paper in half and put the pieces in the center of the table. I collect the papers and quickly sort them into items or categories (such as plows, feeders, water supply systems, insecticides, etc. (I do this while the students listen to me read each discovery, or I can do it after the end of the first part of the lesson, and have the sorting done before starting this part of the lesson.)
I say, “we have several different examples of technologies that make the way farmers grow plants easier than in the past. I am going to ask you to sit with others who have found a similar invention. Each one of you will share the item you found and read what you wrote about what it makes easier for the farmer. When you have all shared out and know about the things in your group, I am going to ask you to wait quietly and then I will give a second direction.” I break the students into 3 groups of 6 so we can set up a debate once we have learned about our technologies. Sharing In Technology Groups Students have never had a debate before so this will be a modified debate where students are asked a question and then each group can use the items they have to support their opinion.
Once everyone has shared their technologies within their groups I say to students, “Today we are going to have a debate. Does anyone know what a debate is?” I let students give their ideas of a debate. I reinforce correct ideas. I say, “yes, you are on the right track. A debate is when people share their ideas about something based on the facts they have. Today you are going to use the things your team has discussed about technology on the farm to debate whether technology is always good for growing plants. First you will all have 5 minutes to decide how your group feels about the question. (I have the question written on sentence strips to post for students to refer to) Decide if your group thinks technology is always good for growing plants, sometimes good or never good. Then use your pictures and things you wrote to give reasons for your decision. When we come together, you will need to tell us your decision and why you made that decision. Remember when we wrote our opinions how we gave our opinion and then had 3 or 4 reasons to support it? That is what you are doing now, except in a group.”
I give students about 10 minutes to complete their opinion statements.
I set the room up while the groups are working. I make a triangle out of the desks so that the three groups are facing one another. I ask each group to sit on one side of the triangle.
I say, "Each group will read their statement to answer the question 'Is technology always good for growing plants?' After you read your statement each of the other groups will have to ask questions that you will need to answer about what you have said. The group who asked the question will have a chance to respond to your answer. The idea is for you to ask the group to prove what they are saying based on the pictures and statements they have collected."Asking Questions and Responding During the Debate
I check for understanding and then let each group share their statements and take questions.
This is a very prescribed form of a debate because it is the first time the children have been exposed to the debate format before. It gives them an initial chance to defend their ideas based on the knowledge they have about a certain technology used in farming. I am hoping that students can ask good questions and defend their answers based on their knowledge.
At the end of the debate I ask students to return to their own desks and I hand them a blank piece of paper. I ask them to write their personal answer to the question, "Is technology always good for farming?" I remind them to give at least 2 reasons to support their opinion.
I collect these papers to see if students were able to use the information from the group discussions and the debate to answer the questions.