Lesson Plan 2: What does biodiversity have to do with the food we eat?

Grade levels: 4 to 6.

Subjects: Nutrition, Science, Mathematics

Duration: Two 1.5 hour sessions in the classroom + three 30 minute sessions at home

Description: Students keep a daily food log for three days. After, they investigate how their food consumption depends on genetic and species diversity.

Learning objectives: By the end of the activity, the students will be able to:
  • Link the different foods they eat to biodiversity;
  • Explain three reasons why genetic diversity is important for agriculture and for people;
  • Explain three reasons why species diversity is important for agriculture and for people.

Skills: Students will develop skills in the following areas:
  • Creating graphic organizers;
  • Classifying and organizing data;
  • Introduction to systems thinking.

Materials: Notebook or paper, pencil.

Vocabulary: biodiversity, climate change, gene, genetic diversity, species diversity.

Procedure

In-class preparation (Monday, 1.5 hours)
  1. Start activity with a KWL chart or word wall. (See appendix 1.)
  2. Explain learning objectives and new vocabulary.
  3. Have students read “What does biodiversity have to do with the food we eat?” in Biodiversity, food and farming for a healthy planet.
  4. Ask students why they think both genetic and species diversity are important for farming and for food.
  5. Introduce concept of a graphic organizer (e.g. table) as a tool for collecting, organizing information. Constructing the food log could be integrated as a mathematics lessons in which the students determine (a) what data are important, (b) how often to record data, (c) the appropriate layout, number of rows and columns and column headings.
  6. Have students create a food log in a notebook (see sample below), where they will record their food and drink intake for the next 4 days.

    At home assignment (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday)
  7. After every meal or snack (or other agreed upon time), fill in the food log.
  8. Repeat for three days.

    In-class follow-up (Friday, 1.5 hours)
  9. Engage students in a class discussion on the results of their food logs. Use facilitation techniques to encourage participation of all students (e.g. small group discussions in which one student reports the group’s ideas back to entire class; pair-and-share; one minute delay between asking questions and soliciting answers, during this time, students write or sketch possible answers). Possible starting points include:
    • Have students create categories using the data they have collected (e.g. breakfast/lunch/dinner; sweet/salty/bitter/sour fruit/vegetable/grain/meat/dairy; locally-produced/imported; organic/fair trade/conventional; food produced in N. America/S. America/Africa/Asia/Europe/Pacific; special occasion food/everyday food; food I cook/food mom cooks/food dad cooks; etc.) and then group their food. Write categories and food ingredients on the board.
    • Ask students what it would be like to eat only one food or only one category of food. Introduce importance of species diversity in agriculture and how it enriches human lives (by way of providing us with diverse foods). Have students identify other reasons why species diversity is important to agriculture (e.g. environmental, social and economic reasons).
    • Ask students what would happen if climate change affected the growing conditions of farms around the world. Have students identify other reasons why genetic diversity is important to agriculture. For example, if historically cool and wet potato-growing regions of Peru became warm and dry, what might happen to the potatoes? To the potato farmers? To potato consumers? What characteristics in other potato breeds might the potato farmers select if they want to continue growing potatoes? What other options do they have? Discuss the importance of genetic diversity in agriculture and how it enriches human lives (e.g. different varieties or breeds of a single species may be better suited to local tastes, cooking methods, nutritional needs, growing conditions, etc.).

  10. If using the KWL chart, as a class, fill in the L column.

Assessment:
  • Active student participation in class discussion.
  • Submission of daily food log.
  • See appendix 3(a) to assess participation and group work and 3(b) to assess the food log graphic organizer.

Internet resources
Interactive World Hunger Map from the United Nations World Food Programme

Origins of Food:
Food Origins
Crop Origins

Graphic organizers: Graphic Organizers

Modifications and extensions:
This activity could be extended to look at global inequity in a hunger map. Students could research and compare average daily caloric intake of children in different parts of the world. As student may be shocked by their findings, a class discussion of why the inequity occurs and what students can do about it should be included.

Sample food log
TUESDAY-MEAL ONE

  • United Nations
  • United Nations Environment Programme