Initial Publication Date: October 9, 2017

Teaching Materials for Teaching about Food


The Ecological Footprint Dilemma
How big is your ecological footprint? This case will assist students in quantifying this construct and allow them to reflect on life styles and alternative approaches that can help them reduce their ecological impacts.

How Much Energy is on my Plate?
This activity leads students through a sequence of activities that highlight the embodied energy that is necessary to produce various types of food.

The Lifestyle Project
This three-week project challenges students to learn about environmental alternatives by modifying their own lifestyles. Throughout the project, students reduce their impacts on the environment by changing the way in which they live from day to day. Food is one of five categories in which students may elect to examine.

Urban Farming, Soil Science and Me - Reflection 1
This reflection assignment is used within a service learning project to bridge three fundamental categories: community service, personal growth and course content. Reflections are designed to gauge students' expectations, thoughts, learning and understanding and make them evident to the students. Students reflect back on the experience(s) and also relate it to what they had written at the beginning of the course. The first assignment of the reflections series is presented along with the general expectations for reflections (which will become a rubric), The DEAL Model and questions guiding critical reflections.

Teaching the nitrogen cycle and human health interactions
This activity uses objects, pictures, and text in a matching game to define the nitrogen cycle and the environmental and human health impacts of nitrogen. The game can be used to associate useful and detrimental effects of the nitrogen cycle on the human and natural environment. Students write nitrogen cycle poetry as a method to emphasize concepts learned in the unit.

Investigative Case - "Holy Starbucks Batman!"
Students investigate caffeine as a potential new pollutant in a northwest river system. Effects of caffeine on invertebrates and salmon fry are explored through field work and lab work.

Question of the Day: Efficiency of Food Production
This question uses a figure showing a simple food chain for land production.

This sequence of 8 labs exposes students to the most current fisheries research and management tools in a way that allows them to become active participants in both learning about and conserving marine ecosystems.

A Healthier You: Modeling a Healthier Weight from Dietary Improvement and Exercise
In this Spreadsheets Across the Curriculum module, students develop an Excel spreadsheet to calculate how many days it would take for an overweight person to come down to a healthy weight. The context is a community weight-loss program, and the presumption is that the student is designing a weight loss plan for the participants in the program. The weight-loss plan incorporates the effect of both dietary changes and increases in activity. The student's spreadsheet takes into account information relating to age, sex, height, weight, body mass index, resting energy expenditure, caloric content of food, and metabolic equivalents.


An introduction to the theory of agroecology and the current practices of sustainable agriculture. The components of farm management will be studied within the context of a complex ecosystem. Class time will be spent in lecture, field studies and field trips that will attempt to integrate concepts in agroecology with actual practices in sustainable agriculture.

Soils and Sustainable Agriculture
This intermediate-level lecture/lab earth science course explores the relationships between the geological parent and the character of the resulting soils. The lecture portions discuss the theoretical background and are closely tied to lab and field experiences which include mapping and sampling soils, determining physical and chemical characteristics, and evaluating biota such as seeds and invertebrates. Assessment is through lab reports, a final project, and a final exam.

Plant Biology
This is an interdisciplinary course that introduces students to the basic concepts of plant biology in the context of sustainable food and agriculture systems. The course is taught in an interactive format with problem solving, a range of field trips, and numerous writing assignments. The course culminates with a paper that addresses a plant based problem from multiple perspectives, integrating science, environmental challenges, economics, and ethics.

Slow Food
Slow Food
is one of the First Year Initiative (FYI) Seminars offered at Beloit College. These courses are full semester, non-disciplinary, discussion-based courses that emphasize the development of college learning skills including reading, writing, presentation and critical thinking. The instructor also serves as the academic advisor for the students during their first 3 semesters at Beloit College.


Feeding the World - Teaching Sustainability in a Plant Biology Course - Susan Singer, Carleton College