InTeGrate Modules and Courses >The Wicked Problem of Global Food Security
 Earth-focused Modules and Courses for the Undergraduate Classroom
showLearn More
These materials are part of a collection of classroom-tested modules and courses developed by InTeGrate. The materials engage students in understanding the earth system as it intertwines with key societal issues. The materials are free and ready to be adapted by undergraduate educators across a range of courses including: general education or majors courses in Earth-focused disciplines such as geoscience or environmental science, social science, engineering, and other sciences, as well as courses for interdisciplinary programs.
Explore the Collection »
How to Use »

New to InTeGrate?

Learn how to incorporate these teaching materials into your class.

  • Find out what's included with each module
  • Learn how it can be adapted to work in your classroom
  • See how your peers at hundreds of colleges and university across the country have used these materials to engage their students

How To Use InTeGrate Materials »
show Download
The instructor material for this module are available for offline viewing below. Downloadable versions of the student materials are available from this location on the student materials pages. Learn more about using the different versions of InTeGrate materials »

Download a PDF of all web pages for the instructor's materials

Download a zip file that includes all the web pages and downloadable files from the instructor's materials

Summary

The 1996 World Food Summit declared food security to be "when all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life." Over the next several decades, food security will continue to be one of the the most pressing issues facing our planet. In this three-week module, we take an Earth systems approach to understanding and addressing world food insecurity issues, and explore how social, economic, and political factors impact decision-making and can improve or compromise the biogeochemical interactions provided by the Earth system as they pertain to food production. Students will explore the very factors that cause food insecurity (including climate, socio-economic, and physical) through readings, lecture, case studies, and geospatial analysis using ArcGIS Online. The module will culminate with a summative assignment where students will design a community-based action plan utilizing a variety of data sources addressing food insecurity in a location of their choosing.

Strengths of the Module

  • This module prepares students from a variety of backgrounds to explore a global humanitarian problem using systems thinking. Sociopolitical and economic factors as well as Earth system concepts are examined as students explore what is meant by sustainable food production.
  • The module employs a flipped classroom model. Students prepare for each class by conducting reading assignments and tutorials. These activities can be evaluated by the instructor and/or serve as the basis for discussion. Class sessions are reserved for group work and mapping activities, and opportunities for metacognitive reflection is built into assignments.
  • In class, students work in groups to to build understanding of the complexity of the global food system, and learn how complex, multiscalar problems like global food security are "wicked problems"---where a solution may work for part of the problem but entail unforeseen consequences in other parts of the system.
  • Data-enabled exercises set in place-based case study learning opportunities is also a strength. Individual and team assessment rubrics of student learning are included.
  • Although designed as an integrated module, sufficient information and guidance is provided to enable instructors to incorporate individual units, activities, and components of activities into courses.
  • Finally, a major strength of the module is its value in modeling the steps of a protracted research project to lower division students. Student teams examine primary literature, obtain spatial data and conduct original analyses using geospatial technologies, and present their findings to the class.

Students who learn with this module will:

  • Brainstorm solution(s) to the wicked problem of food security
  • Synthesize multiple data sets and types of background material
  • Gain familiarity with ArcGIS Online and use spatial analysis to explore a place-based problem
  • Describe the various factors that influence food security in three different regional contexts
  • Make connections between the earth system and cultural, economic, and political processes to understand the wicked problem of food security

NGSS Logo Very Small

These materials have been reviewed for their alignment with the Next Generation Science Standards. At the top of each page, you can click on the NGSS logo to see the specific connections. Visit InTeGrate and the NGSS to learn more about the process of alignment and how to use InTeGrate materials to implement the NGSS.

NGSS in this Module

The Wicked Problem of Global Food Security Module aligns well with the High School NGSS Cross cutting concepts: Cause and Effect, and Stability and Change, as well as the NGSS Disciplinary Core Ideas: Global Climate Change, Ecosystem Dynamics, Functioning, and Resilience and Human Impacts on Earth Systems. High school teachers could adapt the module to could be used at the high school level. While it would be beneficial to introduce the topic of Global Food Security to middle level students, this module's units require a deeper understanding of the interdisciplinary nature of science than is typical of middle school students. The module uses the flipped classroom strategy which requires students to conduct an extensive amount of research on their own and then come to class prepared to work with their peers in team settings. Students' make and analyze GIS maps to study food security with a focus on malnutrition. The students learn why it is a "wicked problem" and work in teams as they research the food security problem in regions of the United States. Finally the student teams apply the same process to where they live.

A great fit for courses in:

  • environmental science
  • sociology
  • geology
  • geography
  • natural resources
  • environmental geology
  • earth science
  • global change


Instructor Stories: How this module was adapted
for use at several institutions »


Related publication:

      Next Page »

Already used some of these materials in a course?
Let us know and join the discussion »

Considering using these materials with your students?
Get pointers and learn about how it's working for your peers in their classrooms »

These materials are part of a collection of classroom-tested modules and courses developed by InTeGrate. The materials engage students in understanding the earth system as it intertwines with key societal issues. The collection is freely available and ready to be adapted by undergraduate educators across a range of courses including: general education or majors courses in Earth-focused disciplines such as geoscience or environmental science, social science, engineering, and other sciences, as well as courses for interdisciplinary programs.
Explore the Collection »