Academic journal article The Science Teacher

The Green Room

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

The Green Room

Article excerpt

The Ecology of Food

Nowadays, we can eat almost any food item we want regardless of the season. Want a kiwi in South Carolina in December? No problem. But what agricultural and technological hurdles do we jump to make that possible? Food is a crucial topic in any environmental science classroom. Not only is it an umbrella for many other concepts--soil, climate, global population, nutrition, land use, genetic engineering--but it's also something students enjoy discussing. The choices students make about food and diet affect their own health and the health of the planet.

Each year, I tweak my unit on agriculture (food production and consumption) to make sure it's still interesting and current. I keep interest high by using interactive activities and discussing personal food choices. But staying current with modern agriculture technologies is more difficult.

Food and agriculture activities

The documentary film Food, Inc. takes a critical look at the U.S. food supply. The 93-minute film explores the relationship between food production and human health, workers' rights, animal welfare, and other issues (Kenner and Pearlstein 2008). A discussion guide (see "On the web") maximizes the educational impact of Food, Inc. The guide recommends the Socratic approach, having the teacher ask probing questions. Suggested activities help students address food-related issues in their own lives.

I also highly recommend the free, downloadable Nourishing the Planet in the 21st Century curriculum available from the Nutrients for Life Foundation (see "On the web"). This soil science curriculum features six hands-on activities to help students realize the challenge of feeding a growing global human population. Your students may also want to play the related "Humanity Against Hunger" game in which they help solve food shortages in Africa. Students learn how deficiencies in nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorous can stunt plant growth and how fertilizers can help farmers achieve higher crop yields to feed more people.

Modern agricultural technologies

You don't need to search far for information about the current state of modern agriculture. posts current news in the category of agriculture and food, and the Agriculture Network Information Center offers basic agriculture information (see "On the web"). …

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