For the InstructorThese student materials complement the Future of Food Instructor Materials. If you would like your students to have access to the student materials, we suggest you either point them at the Student Version which omits the framing pages with information designed for faculty (and this box). Or you can download these pages in several formats that you can include in your course website or local Learning Managment System. Learn more about using, modifying, and sharing InTeGrate teaching materials.
Systems Thinking Applied to Food Systems
Now we will look at the systems concept and apply it to the food systems examples you have considered. While all of us use the word 'system' on a daily basis, we may not have considered before the idea of the 'systems concept' formally. In unit one of this module, we considered a multidisciplinary approach to food systems. Such an approach then requires that we think about the different component parts of a food system and the disciplines we use to understand them not as separate but as interacting entities, as you have probably been able to appreciate while reading the above cases. Now, complete the brief online reading from the eco-literacy project that introduces some principles of systems thinking:
One tool that can be helpful in analyzing systems that we will apply in this exercise is concept maps.These are more detailed versions of diagrams you might draw to illustrate how pieces of a whole system, project, or machine are put together. You should also visit the resource on concept mapping at the SERC page at:
Note some of the patterns in these maps: boxes or nodes in the diagram represent concepts or entities that form the parts of a system, while arrows represent relationships between the parts. Also, when we draw an arrow we try to be as specific as possible about what relationship that arrow represents. Sometimes arrows mean "causes", sometimes they mean "contributes something to" or "takes in something from" and sometimes they represent other relationships -- you as the mapper(s) decide. There's another formal mapping language defined on this concept mapping page (e.g. find how "proposition" is defined on the page), but our goal is to give a brief introduction and avoid vagueness about relationships before you try to make a preliminary concept map of a system. Most people find concept mapping fairly intuitive, creative, and fun, and it's also a way to work with a team partner to make your view of the relationships explicit as opposed to just jumping into writing your assessments together.
Now that you have finished the readings, complete the below assignment as a summative assessment. You will submit your diagram and two paragraphs in MS Word doc format.
Systems thinking as described in the reading above points out that it is the interactions between parts of a system rather than just the identity of each part that become important in systems thinking, and also reinforces the value of mapping and diagramming for systems. Using this framework for systems thinking, this activity asks you to (a) draw a concept map of one of the systems you read about in the formative assessment, in order to think more carefully about the relationships between parts, and then (b) Write two summary paragraphs that describe the relationships between the parts of the system that your concept map depicts, as well as the challenges of production and sustainability in the system. Your first paragraph needs to start with a topic sentence that addresses one of the central relationships in the system you have diagrammed.
- For part a, the diagram, it's likely that you and your partner will start on paper, using the materials from the formative assessment 1.2, but you could try starting out in PowerPoint. For submission, you can use PowerPoint to draw shapes, arrows, and labels and submit your PowerPoint, or submit a scanned, CLEAR, hand-drawn image (jpg or png format). Try to identify both the human and natural parts of the food system in your diagram, as well as some components of production, transport, consumption. Feel free to use the coupled human-natural system (CHNS) diagram from this unit as a central framework for your diagram, but note that you'll likely have to include sub-components as part of the larger human and natural systems, "exploding" the human and natural parts to see what they are made of. You can go into a fair amount of detail in this diagram, if you have time, perhaps getting into areas that were not part of your initial responses about the system in the formative assessment.
- Your first paragraph should start with a summary sentence describing a key relationship in the system you diagrammed in the concept map. You may want to think about what relationship between parts summarizes why this food system exists. For example, does the food system exist because of a local or distant market or need for food? Does that interact in some central way with the growing conditions or other natural system components in the place of the food system? You can then use a key verb or relationship to link one or more systems components to another system component, or the performance of the entire food system example from the previous assessment. You can use the natural and human systems components that you identified in the previous assessment to write these sentences. Here is an example we did not read about in the formative assessment above but illustrates some possible ideas: we could write off the vegetable production areas of south Florida in the United States: "one of the warmest climates in the continental United States, irrigation water and government irrigation infrastructure from the Everglades, and being fairly near to Eastern Seaboard consumer markets combined to make south Florida an important center for year-round vegetable production in the U.S. food system". Here climate, water, infrastructure, and markets are system components and "combined to make" expresses the interactions and the outcome within the food system. Use the remaining sentences in the paragraph to describe further properties of, and relationships between, parts of the system that support or add to the relationships you describe in this first sentence.
- Then, in a second paragraph, describe a possible sustainability challenge faced by this food system, using the component parts you wrote about in the first paragraph. You should describe the potential or known challenges of either producing food or protecting future production, or other components of natural and human systems. You may be able to go back to some of the sustainability concerns expressed by the food-related organizations in formative assessment 1.1, to include these in your paragraph. There is no need to cite the organization's websites explicitly, but if it seems relevant you may want to mention the food organization briefly (e.g. "as brought up by the FAO as a concern,...."). Mostly this assessment is about your analysis and viewpoint on the food system case you have chosen, and the purpose is not to get caught up in formulaic sentences based on close reading of these suggestions -- as long as you address components, interactions, and sustainability and proceed from topic sentences to clear and complete elaboration on these, your paragraph will fulfill the purpose of the assignment.
The broader purpose of this assessment: One of the goals of this assessment and the food system cases you are examining here is to give you familiarity with developing an overall diagram of a food system, which may be useful as you begin to consider the food system "case" in your capstone project region. It may be helpful to think of the human and natural system components in your capstone region and diagram them in the same way you are doing here for these cases. You could even use a concept map in your final presentation.
Grading Information and Rubric
Your summative assessment will be evaluated based on the following rubric. The maximum grade for the assignment is 20 points.
|Criteria||Score of 5||Score of 3||Score of 1|
|Diagram clearly labels human and natural system components within a food system example, as well as their relations and interactions.||Sufficient number of both human and natural system elements with evidence of care, inquiry, and creativity in labeling interactions||One or two principal human and natural system elements omitted, or interactions omitted||Many interactions or components omitted, or diagram unclear|
|Paragraphs are legible, correct and clearly written.||Clearly structured sentences, easily readable, with very few grammatical errors.||Some unclear writing or grammar errors, but significant effort is indicated, easily readable.||Difficult to read or many grammatical errors.|
|Paragraphs describe and elaborate on interactions between natural and human system components.||1 to 5 points based on completeness of descriptions.|
|Paragraphs clearly describe one or more sustainability challenges to the system.||Challenge described clearly and in enough detail to understand the challenge.||Challenge described in incomplete detail with some evidence of effort.||Challenge not described or omitted.|