Students must learn to read, evaluate, discuss, and write about real-world science issues. Some educators feel that practice is the best way to become a proficient reader, thinker, and communicator. While building knowledge from textbooks is important, teachers today are less likely to use class time in this manner. Instead, many science teachers engage students in reading through informational text.
In this Farm-to-Table themed project-based lesson, students consider the journey food takes before it gets to their plate. After reading informational texts and other sources, students evaluate the various authors' points of view and identify conflicting evidence. Finally, they make a claim, support it with logical reasoning and relevant evidence, address counterclaims, and share findings with others.
You can hook students with high-interest literary nonfiction such as the Young Readers Edition of Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Before students read, ask them what they know about where food comes from and how it gets to our tables. These sites provide plenty of classroom activities and questions to help introduce the book, generate discussions, and suggest student products. Remind students that Pollan presents one point of view and that other writers offer opposing perspectives.
The goal is to think about food—where it comes from, along with its nutritional value—and to take a stand on a food-related topic. Students must support their insights with evidence and share their product with others. To do this well, they must understand the perspectives and motivations of other stakeholders. That means identifying credible sources of information and data. In addition to using data to support their claim and solution, students must understand how the data was collected and what it represents.
After selecting a topic, students create a research question. They may need help generating their compelling question. The next step is gathering background information—either by exploring the internet or using trusted sites provided by the teacher.
Here's a quick list of Curriculum Pathways resources students may incorporate.
VLab: Stream Ecology – Use Internet Explorer to view this resource.
Energy Flow in Ecosystems
Recombinant DNA Technology
Analyzing Commercial Fishing Catches
Food Chains and Biological Magnification
Lab: Isolating DNA from Foods
Analyzing Your Nutrient Intake
The Kingdom Protista
Certified Organic Farms
Corn for Grain Production
Cost of Food at Home
Fish Mercury Levels
U.S. Citrus Acreage and Value by Crop
English Language Arts
Writing Navigator Series
Data Gathering with Independent and Dependent Variables
Algebra Course: Graphing One-Variable Data
Algebra Course: Analyzing One-Variable Data
Algebra Course: Two-Variable Categorical Data
Algebra Course: Two-Variable Quantitative Data
Other Sites with Videos
Birke Baehr: What’s wrong with our food system?
Pamela Ronald: The case for engineering our food
From Farm to Table: Nat Geo Live
Your Food, Farm to Table
Debunking the Myths: Finding Success in the Organic Marketplace
Food Biotechnology Videos
Organic Eggs vs. Conventional Farm Eggs
Synthesize Claims and Evidence, Evaluate, Revise, and Share
To track workflow and progress, Michelle Woods and other instructional coaches use Agile methods. Agile is an iterative approach to software development. The primary role of the teacher is project management. Each team member quickly summarizes what they did yesterday, what they will do today, and if they are experiencing any obstacles in a stand-up meeting or scrum. Student leaders serve as Scrum Masters. Teachers and student track the project’s progress or Sprints using Trello or sticky notes. Student products could be essays, videos, magazines, brochures, infographics, annotated maps, or some other form that achieves the objective. Teachers and students can even showcase digital student work.
Here are some other ways that SAS Curriculum Pathways can help you develop engaging project-based lessons.