Lesson Plan 3: How do farmers grow food around the world?

Grade levels: 4 to 6.

Subjects: Science, Environmental Education, Geography

Duration: five 45-60 minutes sessions + individual research time + ongoing garden maintenance time + community celebration event time

Description: There is a dual focus for this activity: investigating the origin of and growing methods for a food, and growing a garden. Over the course of several weeks, you can introduce different methods used by farmers to grow food, why different methods are used in different parts of the world, and engage the students by having them test various growing methods.

Learning objectives: By the end of the activity, the students will be able to:
  • Describe different basic farming methods used in different parts of the world, as examples of how human knowledge shapes and is shaped by biodiversity
  • Explain why some growing practices are used in some areas but not in others, and for certain foods but not for others
  • Grow food using different growing methods

Skills: Students will develop skills in the following areas:
  • Scientific method;
  • Oral presentations;
  • Research techniques;
  • Creating graphic organizers;
  • Classifying and organizing data.

Materials: World map, indoor planting material (seeds, pots, soil, water, fertilizer, light source), outdoor planting material (seeds, trowel, soil)

Vocabulary: biodiversification, biodiversity, community-supported agriculture, greenhouse, industrial farming, monoculture, organic farming, pesticide, small-scale farming, sustainable farming.

Procedure

Introduction to concepts (45-60 minutes)
  1. Start activity with a KWL chart or word wall (see samples in lesson plan 1). Explain vocabulary and learning objectives.
  2. Have students read “How do farmers grow food around the world?” in Biodiversity, food and farming for a healthy planet.
  3. As a group, have students list the various foods they eat. Encourage them to identify which crops, fruits, vegetables and animals are used in their favourite dishes. Have students refer to their food logs from lesson 2.
  4. Ask students where they think their food was grown or originated. Have students indicate the country on a world map.
  5. Ask students to describe how any of listed foods are grown or raised. Explain there are many different ways that farmers grow different kinds of food around the world. Further explanation of agriculture terminology and various growing methods may be needed.
  6. Explain the individual assignment:
    • Each student selects one food item, such as a fruit, vegetable, root or meat, for a research project.
    • Each student uses a worksheet to help guide his or her research. (See sample worksheet below.)
    • Each student prepares a two-minute presentation on his or her research.
  7. Introduce or review research and investigation techniques: 1) identify a research question, 2) identify possible sources of information such as books, videos, internet encyclopedias, reliable websites, resource people in your community, 3) read or talk with information sources, 4) record your notes, 5) organize your notes, 6) summarize your main findings and conclusion.
  8. Introduce or review oral presentation techniques. Divide students into groups of three. In each group, assign a timekeeper, note-taker and reporter. Ask half the groups to come up with a list of good oral presentation techniques (e.g. making eye contact with the audience). Ask the other half to come up with a list of poor oral presentation techniques (e.g. only looking at your feet). The groups have five minutes to brainstorm ideas. After, the reporter in each group summarizes the group’s discussion for the rest of the class. The teacher may wish to post a list of good and poor presentation techniques in the classroom.

    Presentation of research (45-60 minutes)
  9. Have students present their research to the class.

    Hands-on activity (45 minutes for instructions and skill-building + 45-60 minutes for each of the each indoor and outdoor planting sessions)
  10. Introduce or review the scientific method. Explain that the class will use the scientific method to learn about growing food and comparing growing methods.
  11. As a class, decide how you will measure plant growth (e.g. height of plant, number of leaves per plant) and variables that affect plant growth (e.g. hours of daily light exposure, amount of water per day or week, number and type of neighbouring plant(s)).
  12. Select a fast-growing food plant (e.g. beans) that students can grow using various methods in the classroom and schoolyard.
  13. Introduce concept of a graphic organizer (e.g. table) as a tool for collecting, organizing information. Constructing the plant growth and variables table could be integrated as a mathematics lessons in which the students determine (a) what data are important, (b) how often to record data, and (c) the appropriate layout, number of rows and columns and column headings.
  14. Divide the students into teams of five. Groups should have students of mixed abilities. In each group, assign roles: someone to read the instructions aloud, someone to draw a graphic organizer, someone to collect planting material, someone to take notes and someone to ensure everyone is on task and participating.
  15. Have each team plant bean (or other species) seeds according to a different growing method. For example, growing beans in individual pots in the classroom represents growing food in a greenhouse; growing only beans in the school garden represents a monoculture; intercropping beans with other plant species represents biodiversification; raising beans without pesticides represents organic farming. (See evergreen.ca/en/lg/patterns.pdf for specific steps.)
  16. Have students nurture the seedlings.
  17. Have students compare the various growing methods and prepare a short written or oral report.
  18. If using the KWL chart, as a class, fill in the L column.
  19. Host a garden/greenhouse celebration. Invite other classes, parents and community members to tour the garden and classroom greenhouse, and to listen to student presentations. During the celebration, ensure each student has a specific role (e.g. greeter, tour guide, presenter, etc.). Roles should be assigned before the celebration. (If the class is doing lesson 4 Can farming affect biodiversity? combine the garden celebration with the poster presentation.)

Assessment:
  • Student research project on one type of food – where it originated or its history, where it is currently grown or raised, and why it grown in these locations; how it is grown or raised, and why it is grown or raised using such methods.
  • The student will demonstrate their understanding of food production methods as an example of human contributions to the cultural aspects of biodiversity through an oral presentation of their research project.
  • The student will demonstrate their practical awareness of growing food through active participation in the hands-on planting activity, culminating celebration and oral and written research reports.
  • See appendix 3(a-d) for sample rubrics of participation and group work, graphic organizers, oral presentations and research reports.

Internet resources:

  • United Nations
  • United Nations Environment Programme