InTeGrate Modules and Courses >Future of Food
 Earth-focused Modules and Courses for the Undergraduate Classroom
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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.
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This material was developed and reviewed through the InTeGrate curricular materials development process. This rigorous, structured process includes:

  • team-based development to ensure materials are appropriate across multiple educational settings.
  • multiple iterative reviews and feedback cycles through the course of material development with input to the authoring team from both project editors and an external assessment team.
  • real in-class testing of materials in at least 3 institutions with external review of student assessment data.
  • multiple reviews to ensure the materials meet the InTeGrate materials rubric which codifies best practices in curricular development, student assessment and pedagogic techniques.
  • review by external experts for accuracy of the science content.


This page first made public: Jan 11, 2018

Summary

The Future of Food is an introductory-level science course that emphasizes the challenges facing food systems in the 21st century, including issues of sustainability, resilience, and adaptive capacity, and the challenges posed by food insecurity and modern diets to human health and well-being. Systems thinking permeates the course as students use a coupled human-natural system model throughout the course to explore the natural system (e.g., soils, water, climate, crops, pests) and its interconnection with our human food system. Twelve online modules, each designed for one week of instruction, include active-learning elements, reading materials, videos and exercises incorporating real data sets and the application of critical thinking and problem-solving skills to real-world issues. The course culminates in a capstone project in which students apply concepts explored through the semester to a particular food region. Students work on their assigned food regions throughout the semester. The online course materials and associated readings substitute for a course textbook. The materials for teachers provide options for customizing the modules for different class situations.

Strengths of the Course

Students who learn with this class will:

  • Describe and assess the soil, biological, and water resources and climatic conditions that support food production systems.
  • Analyze how human food systems significantly alter Earth's ecosystems, specifically biological, soil, and water resources.
  • Evaluate the resilience of food production systems in the context of climate change, human population growth, and socio-economic factors.

In working with data, students will:

  • Use Google Earth to explore a food region.
  • Utilize high-quality data sources available online.
  • Interpret visual representations of data including maps, graphs, and other figures.
  • Assess the resilience, vulnerability and adaptive capacity of the food system in an assigned food region.

The Future of Food course and embedded modules are intended to be used as a stand-alone blended or online general education or introductory-level course that would satisfy a science distribution requirement. The course would be appropriate for non-majors and undeclared students looking for a major. The authors expect that this course would be delivered as 12 weeks of content with an additional 2-3 weeks for a course introduction and assessment. As a general guideline, the delivery of content and assessment of learning goals/objectives have been designed to accommodate the logistics of large class sizes where students are expected to work approximately 3 hours per week covering lecture content with an additional 6 hours per week of additional reading, work on formative assessments, etc. Note that some students will require more or less time to meet the goals and objectives of the course. Alternatively, this course could be adapted for a 4-5 week intersession course (or summer class) where students would be expected to devote up to 12 hours for course lectures each week. This course which will be offered in both 100% online and blended formats. The blended format will include the online lecture and weekly face to face labs. The course is broken into four systems, including: introduction to food systems, environmental components of the food system (soils, water, crops), systems approaches to managing food systems (soils, pests, climate change), and sustainability and food systems. There are no prerequisites.

Supported Earth Science Literacy Principles:

  • Big Idea 3: Earth is a complex system of interacting rock, water, air, and life.
    • 3.2 All Earth processes are the result of energy flowing and mass cycling within and between Earth's systems.
    • 3.4 Earth's systems interact over a wide range of temporal and spatial scales.
    • 3.5 Regions where organisms actively interact with each other and their environment are called ecosystems.
    • 3.6 Earth's systems are dynamic; they continually react to changing influences.
    • 3.7 Changes in part of one system can cause new changes to that system or to other systems, often in surprising and complex ways.
  • Big Ideas 7: Humans depend on Earth for resources.
    • 7.1 Earth is our home; its resources mold civilizations, drive human exploration, and inspire human endeavors that include art, literature, and science.
    • 7.3 Natural resources are limited.
    • 7.4 Resources are distributed unevenly around the planet.
    • 7.5 Water resources are essential for agriculture, manufacturing, energy production, and life.
    • 7.10 Earth scientists help society move toward greater sustainability.
  • Big Idea 9: Humans significantly alter the Earth.
    • 9.1 Human activities significantly change the rates of many of Earth's surface processes.
    • 9.3 Humans cause global climate change through fossil fuel combustion, land-use changes, agricultural practices, and industrial processes.
    • 9.4 Humans affect the quality, availability, and distribution of Earth's water through the modification of streams, lakes, and groundwater.
    • 9.5 Human activities alter the natural land surface.
    • 9.6 Human activities accelerate land erosion.
    • 9.7 Human activities significantly alter the biosphere.

Supported Essential Principles of Climate Science:

2. Climate is regulated by complex interactions among components of the Earth system.

5. Climate varies over space and time through both natural and human-made processes.

6. Human activities are impacting the climate system.

7. Climate change will have consequences for the Earth system and human lives.

Addressed grand challenges in Earth and environmental science:

  • Identifying feedback between natural and perturbed systems.
  • Quantifying consequences, impacts, and effects.

Addressed grand challenges in Earth system science for global sustainability:

  • Determine how to anticipate, avoid, and manage disruptive global environmental change.
  • Determine institutional, economic, and behavioral changes to enable effective steps toward global sustainability.
  • Encourage innovation (and mechanisms for evaluation) in technological, policy, and social responses to achieve global sustainability.


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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 »