Unit 3, Activity 11: Industrial Agriculture

Activity Description/Rationale 

The guiding questions of this activity are: what are the major characteristics of industrial agriculture? What are its main purposes? What are its benefits and risks? Students will learn how to visually and descriptively identify features of industrial agriculture, and discuss how it affects the environment, human health and socioeconomic conditions (both positively and negatively). 
 

Goals

Students will…

- identify and describe the major features of industrial agriculture and animal husbandry (i.e. GMOs, chemical controls, synthetic fertilizer, monoculture, continuous cultivation, crop rotation, types of irrigation, CAFOs, hormones, stress drugs)

- identify and describe the effects (both positive and negative) these features have on ecosystems, human health and socioeconomic conditions

- understand why industrial agriculture has these features and effects

 

Universal Design for Learning/Differentiation

 

Materials (First Session)

  1. printouts of images that display key features of industrial agriculture (1 set for each student group, 1 set for each student)
  2. digital slideshow of the images
  3. computer connected to a projector
  4. Unit 2 quiz

Estimated Time of Activity (First Session)
50 minutes

Pre-Activity (First Session)
Students will have become familiar with the major features of industrial agriculture from the readings. 

Activity Instructions (First Session)

  1. Do Now (10 min): Unit 2 Quiz
  2. Warm Up (10 min): Have students volunteer or call on students to share their industrial farm diagrams.  Discuss why they included certain features, and how they decided to represent features as they did.  Generate a list of key terms from the readings and write them on the board.
  3. Group Work (15 min): Give the two sets of printouts to each group.  Tell the groups to circle the key terms as they see them in one set of the printouts and describe how they’re being used. 
  4. Whole Class Discussion (10 min): Project each printout, and go over each image as a class – what are the definitions of these features?  Did everyone identify the same features?  Are some harder to identify than others?  How did these images compare to the industrial farms drawn for homework? Have the students write and draw on the second set of printouts, which they will keep as study materials. 
  5. Wrap-up (5 min): Ask students to pick a few features and take some guesses as to why those feature exist, what their purpose is.  Write the answers down on the board.  Explain that the next session focuses on the driving forces and benefits of industrial agriculture. 

Assignments (First Session)
TBD

Assessment and Reflection (First Session)

The Warm Up assesses students’ understandings of the readings and their prior knowledge of industrial agriculture.  The Group Work further assesses students’ understandings of the readings.  The Whole Class Discussion asks students to reflect on their prior understandings of industrial agriculture.

Instructor’s Notes (First Session)

Look over the Food Dialogues videos (link in the next session’s Materials section below) and select a few for class discussion in the second session. 

 

Materials (Second Session)

  1. computer with internet access connected to a projector
  2. selected short video(s) from the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance’s Food Dialogues (http://www.fooddialogues.com/videos) and *
  3. any objects that can represent raw food materials, food products, and environmental resources (optional)

Estimated Time of Activity (Second Session)
50 minutes

Pre-Activity (Second Session)
Students will have become familiar with the major pros of industrial agriculture from the readings.

Activity Instructions (Second Session)

  1. Warm Up/Do Now (10 min): Ask student groups to answer the question “why does industrial agriculture exist?”.  Encourage the use of drawings, diagrams, and skits in their answers.
  2. Whole Class Discussion (10 min): Have each student group briefly present their answers and discuss as a class.  Highlight or weave in key concepts such as mass production, cheap food for consumers, consistent food supply, abundant food supply, commodity crops and food safety.
  3. Presentation (10 min): Show the Food Dialogues videos and *
  4. Whole Class Discussion (15 min): Drawing on the previous session, the readings and the presentation, discuss the question “who and what benefit from industrial agriculture?”.  Encourage students to draw diagrams on the board and/or create short skits that display the entities that benefit from industrial agriculture and how and why they do (using student and the representative objects).  Touch upon the basics of the political and economic structures that support industrial agriculture (e.g. transnational agribusiness companies, agricultural subsidies for specific crops) and the key concepts from the Whole Class Discussion.
  5. Wrap-up (5 min): On the board, generate a list of the pros of industrial agriculture with brief descriptions of how and/or why industrial agriculture produces these pros.  Explain that the next session focuses on the cons of industrial agriculture.

Assignments (Second Session)
- read “Industrial Agriculture” by the Union of Concerned Scientists (http://www.ucsusa.org/food_and_agriculture/our-failing-food-system/industrial-agriculture/)

Assessment and Reflection (Second Session)

The Warm Up/Do Now and Whole Class Discussion assess students’ abilities to combine the knowledge they gained from the readings and first session about the major features of industrial agriculture with their experience-based knowledge about food industry business practices, consumer behavior and food production to speculate about and create an understanding of why these features exist and their benefits.

 

Materials (Third Session)

  1. computer with internet access connected to a projector
  2. selected short video(s) from TEDxManhattan’s “Changing the Way We Eat” from 2011 –  Karen Hudson’s talk, “The Hidden Price Tag of Industrial Agriculture” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pRE9HA0sJMM) and *
  3. any objects that can represent raw food materials, food products, and environmental resources (optional)

Estimated Time of Activity (Third Session)
50 minutes

Pre-Activity (Third Session)
Students will have become familiar with the major cons of industrial agriculture from the readings.

Activity Instructions (Third Session)

  1. Warm Up/Do Now (10 min): Ask student groups to answer the question “why shouldn’t industrial agriculture exist?”.  Encourage the use of drawings, diagrams, and skits in their answers.
  2. Whole Class Discussion (10 min): Have each student group briefly present their answers and discuss as a class.  Highlight or weave in key concepts and terms such as lack of biodiversity, anti-stress drugs, antibiotics and hormones, manure runoff into waterways, deforestation for agriculture, fossil fuel use, lack of diversity of types of foods and nutrients in most grocery stores, and the cheapest and most ubiquitous foods usually being of low nutritional value.
  3. Presentation (10 min): Show the TEDxManhattan presentations.
  4. Whole Class Discussion (15 min): Drawing on the previous session, the readings and the presentation, discuss the question “who and what are negatively affected by industrial agriculture?”.  Encourage students to draw diagrams on the board and/or create short skits that display the entities that benefit from industrial agriculture and how and why they do (using student and the representative objects).  Make sure to touch upon environmental effects of industrial agriculture, and again, the basics of the political and economic structures that support industrial agriculture (e.g. transnational agribusiness companies, agricultural subsidies for specific crops) as well as the key concepts from the Whole Class Discussion.
  5. Wrap-up (5 min): On the board, generate a list of the cons of industrial agriculture with brief descriptions of how and/or why industrial agriculture produces these cons.  Explain that the next activity focuses on two very different precursors to industrial agriculture, which will explain more about why industrial agriculture exists, and also why contemporary alternatives have particular features. 

Assignments (Third Session)
TBD

Assessment and Reflection (Third Session)
The Warm Up/Do Now and Whole Class Discussion assess students’ abilities to combine the knowledge they gained from the readings and first session about the major features of industrial agriculture with their experience-based knowledge about food industry business practices, consumer behavior and food production to speculate about and create an understanding of why some or all of these features perhaps should not exist.

Instructor’s Notes (all sessions)

To be even more hands on, a field trip to an industrial farm could be incorporated into this activity.  The best way to do so would probably be to have the trip be the first session, and then do the three sessions as is, adding in questions, photos, and physical materials from the trip where applicable.