FIELD STUDY: Community Food Survey and Aquaponics (3 of 3)

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Objective

Students will be able to 1) develop a claim about collected evidence; 2) create an annotated map of food availability and sustainable food production practices in Sunset Park; 3) use criteria developed over this three lesson sequence to determine whether or not Sunset Park is a food desert; 4) develop solution ideas to the problems posed by limited food resources in Sunset Park; and 5) describe potential barriers to successful implementation of a sustainable food production program in Brooklyn.

Big Idea

Food deserts are a persistent feature of many urban environments. How might we interact with our local community in order to develop real-world solutions that address the problems created by food deserts?

FRAME: STEM for social justice

This lesson sequence explores the intersection of STEM and environmental justice.  So far, students have learned about food deserts, explored community food resources, and toured a local aquaponics farm.  Existing literature suggests that there is a connection between food resources available in a community and the demographics of that community.  Students have explored a similar idea in the previous Environmental Justice unit.  The goal for this lesson is to make meaning of evidence collected about food resources in Sunset Park and design a potential course of action.  

For this debrief, students will spend one or two periods.  First students make meaning of the data collected from the community food survey.  They then compare this data to ideas articulated by the Food Empowerment Project in order to make a claim about Sunset Park's status as food desert.  Students then iterate on the map developed during the first lesson of this sequence.   How can we accurately represent the food justice issues of Sunset Park? What should be added?  What should be taken away?  What type of solutions ideas would effectively meet community needs?  Where should we located these solutions Students will peer review maps before moving onto the final discussion of solution ideas and potential barriers to implementation.

By the end of this debrief lesson of the FIELD STUDY sequence, students will have met the following objectives:

  1. construct a map of known food resources in Sunset Park
  2. explain the concept of a food desert
  3. assess the local Sunset Park community against criteria of a food desert.
  4. collect food data from multiple sites within the local neighborhood
  5. explain how an aquaponics farm functions
  6. describe how local food solutions such as aquaponics farms meet community needs.
  7. create an annotated map of food availability and sustainable food production practices in Sunset Park
  8. develop solution ideas to the problems posed by limited food resources in Sunset Park
  9. describe potential barriers to successful implementation of a sustainable food production program in Brooklyn.

TIMING NOTE:  This lesson is presented as a single lesson, but lasted for two class periods.  Teachers that wanted to use this as a single lesson should focus on the DATA VISUALIZATION and DISCUSSION section.  

MAKING MEANING: Field study reflection

20 minutes

What is the purpose of this section?

Students attempt to make meaning of their field study experience.  The teacher learns more about the students’ field study experience in order to better support student needs throughout the rest of the lesson.  Students should be able to articulate how the evidence collected from fieldwork connects with the ideas of food deserts and food justice.

What will the students do?

What is an important piece of data you collected during the field study?  What do you want to learn more about?  Students first have a brief period to review materials from the field study day and make tentative meaning in groups.  This might mean that students develop summaries of data, create evidence-based arguments about the local food system, or simply conduct additional research.  Next, students read this article from the Food Empowerment Project and compare its ideas with evidence collected from fieldwork.  What evidence from fieldwork supports ideas in this article?  What evidence from fieldwork does not support ideas in this article?  What information from this article helps me support my ideas?  Why?  Finally, the whole class will engage in a discussion about meaning of the fieldwork.  What evidence did we collect?  What does this evidence mean?  Why?

What will the teacher do?

The purpose of this activity is for students to be able to articulate the meaning of evidence collected during fieldwork.  To this end, the most important teacher move is to push students to evaluate collected information against ideas in the Food Empowerment Project article.  Were healthy foods available?  Were culturally appropriate foods available?  Was pricing transparent?  Was a wide variety of food available?  Would urban farms help the Sunset Park community?

DATA VISUALIZATION: Food desert or solution oasis?

40 minutes

What is the purpose of this section?

Students iterate on maps developed during the first lesson in this sequence to capture ideas from the field study.  Students also work from models developed by the Food Empowerment Project to develop solutions to problems created by the food resource limitations within Sunset Park.  The teacher support students in selecting appropriate evidence for their work and ideating solutions.  By the end of this activity, students should have a clearly labeled maps of food resources in Sunset Park as well as potential solutions to problems posed by the available food resources.

What will the students do?

First, student groups  will review the map created during the first lesson.  In my class, a link to the "read only" digital map was distributed to student groups via Edmodo.   This map represents students' initial conceptualization of the food resources of Sunset Park.  Students note additions and subtractions to make to the initial map.  These changed should be supported by the experiences with the community food survey and farm tour.  

Evidence from the food survey might include:

  • the average cost of a fast food meal versus the average cost of a meal cooked at home
  • the average distance that a resident would have to travel to obtain real food
  • the diversity of real food options
  • the types of ingredients food in food

Evidence from the farm tour might include:

  • cost of crops grown
  • diversity of crops grown
  • size of land used
  • the average distance that a resident would have to travel to visit the farms or garden

Second, students identify FOUR CHANGES to make to the original map; two changes will come from data collected during the community food survey and two changes will come from data collected during the farm tour.

Finally, students will use the two attached resources as models for potential solution ideas to unmet community needs.  What does our map tell us about what the community needs?  What are the food justice issues that we can solve?  Students identify TWO SOLUTION IDEAS to add to the exiting map.  These ideas should be original, and not merely variations of the provided examples.  Students will describe their four changes on small, group whiteboards and will display these whiteboards during the PRESENTATIONS activity.

What will the teacher do?

The teacher will primarily assist with the evaluation and ideation process.  Students should be able to identify a specific change to make to the original map, but a modeling may be necessary.  If, for instance, food diversity information is missing from the original map, a teacher may want to explain to students that explaining the diversity of foods within a supermarket is crucial information that could be added to a map.  Additionally, students may need support with the ideation process.  Teachers might find the ideation strategies here to be useful for this section.  Students must understand community needs and think divergently to develop ideas.

What are some examples of how the map in this activity will change? 

Here is an example digital version of the food resources in the Sunset Park community.  The original marking are the "pin drop" icons.   Changes made during this activity are "black star" icons.  

DISPLAY NOTE:  If this map does not automatically center on Brooklyn, navigate to New York area and zoom in on the pin drop icons.  

 

 

 

PRESENTATIONS: Gallery walk and flash publication

25 minutes

What is the purpose of this section?

Students will peer review the suggestions for map iterations and present findings.  The teacher will learn about the criteria for success that students use to define acceptable changes and will support students in the peer review process.  The goal in creating these maps is to provide a comprehensive snapshot of the food systems in Brooklyn as well as potential solutions to needs unmet by the current food system.  How well did we meet this goal?  Students will keep this framing question in mind as they peer review the maps created. 

What will the students do?

Student groups use a “keep, change, add, summarize” feedback protocol to provide feedback on maps.  Students add this feedback to the whiteboard developed by each group or to additional paper if there is not enough room on each whiteboard.  What ideas should we keep?  What ideas should we keep with a change?  What ideas could we add?  And finally, what would the new map “argue”?  Is Sunset Park a food desert?  Or is it simply a food challenged neighborhood that a few solution ideas could improve?  This protocol is a variation on the "plus and delta" used often in the course.  The essential difference is that the keep, change, add, summarize protocol pushes students to more specifically assess a student group's work against the evidence developed from the field study.  As such, the feedback for this protocol is less subjective.  Students are not pointing out what they like and do not like; they need to provide evidence for their feedback choices.

Once student groups have provided feedback, groups review peer comments and flash publicize their final map change suggestions.  These flash publications should be no more than two minutes and should respond to these questions:

  • What feedback did we receive?
  • What do we agree with?  What do we disagree with?
  • What are our final change suggestions?
  • What evidence do we have that our change suggestions represent important additions to our original map?

What will the teacher do?

The teacher will primarily ask “push my thinking” questions of individual students and student groups. How else could this map have presented this information?  Do you agree with these cartographers’ conclusions?  Does the evidence provided match the claims made?  Can you think of other solution ideas that you have seen in other ares of New York?  Finally, the teacher will carefully take notes during students' presentations so that changes to the original map can be made that incorporate students' ideas.  Students, of course, can make these changes, but for the sake of time, this is an activity that lends itself to teacher curation.  The goal is for students to develop a map that better reflects the nature of food resources in Sunset Park.  The skill of making changes to a digital map, while important, has been previously developed, and is not an essential element of this lesson.

DISCUSSION: Where do we go from here?

15 minutes

What is the purpose of this section?

Students norm understanding of the field study and challenge each other’s ideas about the nature of Sunset Park as a food desert. The teacher facilitates discussion.  This discussion is a final opportunity for students to develop evidence-based ideas about food resources in Sunset Park and the possibility of implementing effective solution ideas that meet community needs.

What will the students do?

Students will discuss ideas in four areas:

  1. How should we classify the food resources of Sunset Park and Brooklyn?  Are we in food desert?  Are we lacking in information about food resources? 
  2. Is our food resource base an example of environmental injustice?
  3. Is aquaponics a solution to problems created by food systems in Sunset Park and Brooklyn?  Why or why not? 
  4. What other solutions might we develop to address problems created by food systems in Sunset Park and Brooklyn?
  5. What are some barriers to successful implementation of these other solution ideas?

What will the teacher do?

The teacher will facilitate this discussion by providing prompting questions.  The class should cover each topic and the teacher will need to cut short some discussion.  The key teacher move in this discussion is to push students to connect claim with evidence and to question each other.  While this discussion is teacher facilitated, the cognitive work should be done by students.  The teacher's role is to ensure appropriate pacing and to increase the level of rigor (if necessary) by asking for evidence that supports students' claims.

RESOURCE NOTE:  The attached document might be used to help frame this discussion, especially for classes that may struggle with the idea that food access is an example of an environmental justice issue.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Will solutions matter?

10 minutes

What is the purpose of this section?

Students use an article from the New York Times to develop a final reflection piece about the field study experience.  The teacher learns more about students beliefs about the possibility of using evidence about the local community to develop and implement solutions to  address unmet needs.  This is an extension activity that may not be appropriate for all students.  It requires the ability to read a high-level article and develop nuanced ideas about impacting human behavior.  It is excellent formative assessment for teachers, however, as it can reveal a number of barriers that students may have.  What do students think about the possibility of changing communities?  Might these beliefs influence students engagement in this course?  What might be done in future iterations to impact students' beliefs? 

What will students do?

Changing food systems does not necessarily change human behavior.  Review and respond to this article in at least 250 words.  Do you agree or disagree?  Why?  What else would need to happen for changes to be effective in a community?  Provide evidence to support your claim.  

What will the teacher do?

These essays could be used in a number of ways.  This year, only a handful of students completed this task.   I held a small group discussion during a lunch.  Students shared their ideas and suggested possible curriculum changes.  Using a case study of a neighborhood that was once a food desert and has successfully transformed over time was one suggestion that all students agreed would make this lesson sequence better.  Another suggestion, is that we should look at food label redesign as a way of influence community behavior.  This was a great suggestion that I decided to develop as a DESIGN CHALLENGE.