Reflection: Relevance Have Food, Will Travel (3 of 3) - Section 2: EVALUATE: What is the cost of my meal?


I chose this activity as a way to incorporate my students' daily habits into this curriculum in a rigorous and real way.  Especially because this sequence of lessons involves analysis of the large and impersonal industrial food transport system, establishing a personal connection with content is essential.   From this activity, a number of students had "aha" moments about their consumption patterns.  Takis travel thousands of miles?  Eating at McDonalds contributes to climate change?  A warning for this type of activity: students may end up feeling anxious and guilty when they connect their diets to measures of environmental impact, such as a carbon footprint.  Teachers may want to hold a debrief discussion about this activity that allows students to share the uncomfortable feelings that this activity might surface.  Teachers may also want to hold a discussion about next steps that students might take as a way to turn anxiety and guilt into feelings of competence and capacity.  A great first move in this type of discussion is for the teacher to lead with personal admission of dietary choices that have a negative impact on the environment.  I love coffee and I buy it every morning from my favorite cafe.  However, I know my coffee travels thousand of miles.  Also I never use a container; I always take paper cups.  I know that I am damaging the environment.  Let's think of ways that I can reduce my impact on the environment.  How might I reduce my carbon footprint?  How can I reduce the fossil fuels that I indirectly consume?

  Personalizing content applications
  Relevance: Personalizing content applications
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Have Food, Will Travel (3 of 3)

Unit 5: Food (biosphere and geosphere)
Lesson 3 of 24

Objective: Students will be able to: 1) calculate the environmental impact of a favorite meal; and 2) develop nuanced arguments for and against transported food based on the complex, often contradictory literature.

Big Idea: The food consumed during a typical New York City dinner may have traveled over 10,000 cumulative miles. How might we use our understanding of the costs and benefits of global food distribution to identify aspects of the food system to redesign?

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Science, human impact, Food miles, engineering design thinking
  55 minutes
food miles
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