InTeGrate Modules and Courses >Future of Food > Course Overview
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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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Instructor Materials: Overview of the Future of Food Course

Course Goals:

Upon completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • Describe and assess the soil, biological, and water resources and climatic conditions that support food production systems. (Earth Science Literacy Big Ideas 7.1, 7.3, 7.4, 7.5)
  • Analyze how human food systems significantly alter Earth's ecosystems, specifically the biological, soil, and water resources. (Earth Science Literacy Big Ideas 3.2, 3.4, 3.5, 3.6, 3.7, 9.1, 9.3, 9.4, 9.5, 9.6, 9.7)
  • Evaluate the resilience of food production systems in the context of climate change, human population growth, and socio-economic factors. (Earth Science Literacy Big Idea 7.10)

Course Summative Assessment: Evaluation accomplished via summative assessments in each module and a semester-long capstone project. The course summative assessment is a semester-long capstone project that is culminates in the development of a website about a regional food system in Module 12 (see Module 12 below for associated documents). Students gather data and information to support their final presentation in stages throughout the semester, at the end of every third module.

Capstone Overview

The capstone project requires that students assess the current status of the food systems in an assigned region, and to consider the food systems in the assigned region for the future scenarios of human population growth and increased temperatures. At the beginning of the semester, students are assigned to a food region. Throughout the semester, students study different aspects of the food systems of their assigned region. Students develop their assessment of the current status of the regional food system gradually as they progress through the course material. At the end of every third module (denoted by the Stages of the capstone project), students complete an assignment designed to help them gather and organize the information they need to assess the future food scenarios. By the end of the semester students prepare a website about their assigned food region that explores and analyzes the current status and the future resilience and sustainability of the food systems in their assigned region.

The Capstone Assignment

The capstone assignment is broken down into five stages that allow students to develop their assessment of the current status of the regional food system gradually as they progress through the course material. At the end of every third module, students complete an assignment (or stage) designed to help them gather and organize the information they will need to assess the future food scenarios. Each stage has an associated worksheet, which includes a table containing questions and suggestions for where students can gather information or data.

Stages 1 through 4 require students to gather data and information about their assigned region, and stage 5 is the final information synthesis and website production stage. Stages 1 through 4 rely upon concepts and resource presented in Modules 1 through 11 of the course material. The final website (Stage 5) is assessed on coverage of the following:

1. Assessment of Current Status of the Regional Food System (Stages 1, 2 and 3) - Summary of the data and information gathered throughout the semester about the assigned regional food system(s) and the interaction between those food systems and the environment, as well as any relevant socio-economic, cultural and policy factors. Provide an overview of the current status of the assigned regional food system(s). Summarize the data and information that you acquired in the previous modules to present the current status of your regional food system. Summaries should include:

    • Influence of the environment on the food system, including the land, soil, water, climate, crops. (Learning goal 1 – Modules 4, 5, 6, 9)
    • Cultural or socio-economic factors that are important to the regional food system (Modules 1 and 2)
    • Impact of the food system on the environment (Learning goal 2 – Module 4, 5, 8, 9) - Water pollution, soil impacts, monoculture, pesticides, etc. and transportation (energy & GCC)
    • Vulnerabilities of current food system and the attributes of the current food system that contribute to its resilience (Learning Goal 3) - Socio-economic, cultural, and policy factors

2. Discussion of future scenarios (Stage 3) - Identify the future stressors to your region: increased temperature (Module 9) and human population growth

3. Analysis of the resilience of future food system (Stage 4) - Provide a discussion of the resilience of their assigned food system given the potential of increased human population growth and increasing temperatures. Identify the vulnerabilities of current food system and the attributes of the current food system that contribute to its resilience (Learning Goal 3 - Modules 10, 11)

4. Proposed strategies for enhanced resilience (Stage 4)- Propose strategies that contribute to increased resilience of their assigned regional food systems in the face of human population growth and rising temperatures and evaporation rates (Learning Goal 3 - Modules 10, 11).

Course Outline

Section 1: Introduction

  • Module 1: Introduction and overview: Humans Significantly Alter the Earth. Social-ecological systems of global land use and food in the Anthropocene
  • Module 2: History of Food Systems - co-evolution of agriculture and biota
  • Module 3: Diet and Nutrition - interactions between soil fertility, global nutrient cycles, and food production systems
  • Capstone Project: Stage 1

Section 2: Environmental Dynamics and Drivers

Section 3: Systems Approaches to Managing our Food

Section 4: Food Systems and Sustainability

Capstone overview

The capstone project is organized into four stages which are completed throughout the course, culminating in a final group presentation in Module 12:

Adapting the Course to Different Structures, Formats, and Schedules

The course may be taught in its entirety, or individual modules may be extracted for use within other courses. This course works well as a "blended" course, with the modules being completed at home and the activities being completed or presented in a weekly in-person class meeting. It could also be taught entirely online, or the activities could be used in conjunction with lectures developed by the instructor to introduce the relevant concepts in a traditional lecture-based course.

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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 »