Does McDonalds Have a Farm? (2 of 2)

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Students will be able to 1) publicly communicate key ideas of industrial agriculture's impact on the health of the environment; 2) demonstrate proficient understanding of concepts related to industrial agricultural and environmental health through a problem set style assessment

Big Idea

Much of what we eat comes from a “food industrial complex.” How might we define the costs and benefits of this system through comparison of agricultural techniques?

FRAME: Student-centered teaching and learning

In the previous lesson, students engaged with personalized learning pathways in a blended environment to learn about various impacts of industrial agriculture. In this lesson, student groups tackle a particular aspect of the industrial food system to present to the class through a jigsaw activity.  In this way, all students have an opportunity to learn about possible answers to the personalized learning questions chosen during the previous lesson.  This big picture view will be crucial as students begin to learn about soil, the nitrogen cycle, and agricultural technology.  What is the relationship between agriculture and environment?  By the end of this lesson, students will have developed working answers to this question.  The negative impacts that students identify in these answers will be the focus of upcoming design challenges.  How might we sustainably feed 9 billion people?

This lesson purposefully moves away from technology.  Actual human interaction unmediated by technology is a vital part of effective blended learning environments.  Technology is one of many tools that can improve human communication; it is not a replacement for human communication.  This curriculum utilizes a wide range of technology solutions to improve student learning.  However, this technology does not replace speaking and listening.  Student presentations in this lesson are an essential part of the blended learning process.  Without opportunities to socially construct meaning, students can develop an idea that learning is simply a process of watching videos and reading articles online.  Because the goal of this course is to engage students with the actual world, the classroom culture values social interaction and effective in-person communication.

By the end of this lesson sequence, successful students will have met the following objectives: 

  1. reflect on the connections between agriculture and ecosystems
  2. describe the health, environmental, social, and economic impacts of agriculture
  3. work independently and collaboratively to develop an evidence-based answer to a personalized guiding question.
  4. publicly communicate key ideas of industrial agriculture's impact on the health of the environment
  5. demonstrate proficient understanding of concepts related to industrial agricultural and environmental health through a problem set style assessment

RESOURCE NOTE:  As in the previous lesson, the attached resource is a prototype activity guide that might be used or modified for students.  

EXPLAIN: Ag symposium

55 minutes

What is the purpose of this section?

Students transition from personalized learning pathways to small group understanding of an assigned topic; this small group understanding eventually becomes an interactive "flash publication" for the class.  This presentation activity parallels an earlier presentation from the "IMPACT ASSESSMENT" lessons.  It should be considered an iteration on these presentations.  As such the teacher is able to support students' understanding and presentation of content in more personalized and purposeful ways by using data collected from the prior presentations.  Teachers should have a specific goal for each student, such as maintaining eye contact or more clearly explaining abstract concepts.  These goals should have been negotiated with students prior to this lesson so that students can work towards them during presentation preparation.

Resources that will be used:

What will students do?

Students will work in groups and have a total of 45 minutes to present a topic to the rest of the class and synthesize ideas from all student presentation.  Four topics are available.  These topics are:

  1. Food, agriculture, and ecosystems
  2. Problems in agriculture
  3. Organic agriculture
  4. Sustainable agriculture

Students work in teams of three to five students to construct and deliver presentations.  Presentations will be no more than THREE  minutes.  Student teams sign up for topics in a table projected on the screen at the front of the room.  Presentations times are first come, first serve.  No more than two student groups may sign up for a single presentation topic.

The only guidelines provides for each presentation are as follows:

  1. The presentation must begin with context.  Why does this topic matter?
  2. The presentation must include a focus question.  What is the most important question to be able to answer about this topic?
  3. The presentation must include an evidence-based response to this focus question.  What information do I need to be able to answer the focus question?
  4. The presentation must have at least one visual that helps learners understand content presented.  How might we use visualization to teach content in a way that verbal statements cannot?

Each group present in "flash publication" fashion.  Groups do not get extra time and groups go one after the other.  The student audience is expected to take notes for each of the four point above 

Finally, once all students groups have presented, students choose one of the quotes from the slide below and explain its meaning using evidence from this assignment.  To do this, students first write a synthesis summary, and then engage in a whole class discussion. 

What will the teacher do?

The teacher introduces this lesson as an agriculture symposium.  There are three big goals for this symposium: to share, to make personal meaning, and to discuss.  If this is a new practice for a class, a teacher may want to develop a FLIPPED assignment for students to introduce them to the idea.  

After this introduction, the primary goal for the teacher is to support students' efficient development of presentations.  By the three minutes student teams should have chosen a topic and signed up for a time.  By the 15 minute mark all groups should have met the criteria for success.  By 20 minutes student teams should have practiced the entire presentation once.  By 25 minutes, student presentations should begin.  The teacher will keep time for student groups and facilitate the transition process from one group to the next

Next, the teacher will facilitate the individual writing and the group share.  During the group share the emphasis should be on students articulating ideas with evidence and pushing the thinking of one another.  Why did you think that?  I am interested in what you said because my conclusions were different in these ways... I think eating is an agricultural act because.  Teachers may want to have sentence starters reading for conversation if such discussions are not a consistent part of classroom culture.  

TIMING NOTE: This activity could easily be extended to two class periods, depending on the needs of the class.  Teachers that want to emphasize Common Core skills, especially the use of evidence to support claims and academic speaking and listening skills may want to extend time.  A good structure for this would be to have the presentations during the first class and then the writing and discussion for the second class.  A Socratic Seminar structure or Accountable Talk protocol would work well for this type of discussion.

EVALUATE: Problem set

What is the purpose of this section?

This is an optional section that allows students to demonstrate proficiency with content through an alternate pathway.  Many students that are not able to present at a high level may still understand content, and this more traditional assessment allows a teacher to gather additional evidence.  What do students know?  How do they know what they know?

What will students do?

Students complete a series of multiple choice questions and explain their reasoning for all answers.  This means that students will describe not only why they believe that their chosen response is correct; students will also explain why all of the other potential answers are not correct.   

SAMPLE QUESTIONS (courtesy of Dartmouth MOOC):

Question 1 At its current growth rate, the human population will double in 50 years, which of the following strategies would not be useful in feeding the entire population?

  1. doubling worldwide arable land

  2. increasing new crop species

  3. distributing food more equitably

  4. increasing grain production by decreasing meat production

  5. increasing the efficiency of irrigation systems in all countries

Question 2 Agricultural production on flood plains is usually high because

  1. irrigation is unnecessary due to high water tables.

  2. frequent flooding removes pollutants from the soil.

  3. increased acreage is available for flooding.

  4. flooding keeps pH at lower levels.

  5. flooding keeps the soil nutrient rich.

Question 3 An increase in dangerous strains of disease organisms is the result of

  1. genetically modified crops used for high yield food.

  2. including legumes in crop rotation.

  3. adding antibiotics into livestock feed.

  4. plant based insecticides on vegetable crops.

  5. herbicides in large scale farms.

What will the teacher do?

This assessment is a traditional multiple choice type of assessment, but the feedback loop needs to be non-traditional.   Percentages correct, for instance, are of little value to students or teachers.  The feedback focus should be student thinking.  Can students appropriately articulate discipline-specific evidence for answers that they choose?  If not, what misconception do students hold?  I will usually focus on three to five questions and have individual conferences with students to develop a strategy for correcting errors.  Generally, this means that students will revisit missed questions and correct faulty explanatory logic based on my feedback.  Usually this means that I will point students to a resource to consult or a similar problem that we have solved previously as a class.  If individual conferences are not possible, I will send students individual feedback through email or Edmodo.