InTeGrate Modules and Courses >Water, Agriculture, Sustainability > Overview
 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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Instructor Materials: Overview of the Water, Agriculture, and Sustainability Module

Module Goal: This module provides a series of activities for students to learn how our allocation and use of fresh water is unsustainable, particularly with regard to our agricultural practices. It also fosters recognition, via an exploration of virtual water and water footprinting, that we all are global players in water sustainability. In addition, the module provides students opportunities to collaboratively evaluate and synthesize geoscience, ecological, human well-being, and economic information for water systems on global and regional scales.

Summative Assessment: The overall learning goals for this module are assessed using a take-home assignment. In this assignment, students are challenged to evaluate the relative sustainability of agricultural water use in Illinois vs. California given data on water resource availability, agricultural water use, and agricultural productivity for both states.

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

This module provides a series of activities for students to learn how our allocation and use of fresh water is unsustainable, particularly with regard to our agricultural practices. This is a critically important topic today. Some NGSS PE's are addressed by the module, but not necessaritly completely. The pedagogy (e.g. jigsaws, think-pair-share, case studies) is very sound, there is extensive use of data, and the activities are engaging. Discussion and data interpretation are the primary teaching methods. To be useful in a K-12 teaching environment, the teacher may need to embed some hands on investigations, like modeling aquifers and groundwater cycling. Overall, the module provides an excellent context in which K-12 teachers can embed science content in a more meaningful, authentic, and relevant way.

Introduction

The Water, Agriculture and Sustainability module exists to engage students with the greatest fundamental challenges facing humanity--specifically how can we provide access to clean water to all people while also growing the food we need, fostering greater social justice, and preserving natural ecosystems? Because everyone grasps the importance of these issues, student investment in the module is high, particularly as it drives home how we are all connected to issues of water scarcity, accessibility and quality. Another strength of the module is how it features many student-centered, active learning pedagogies, again improving student engagement.

The Water, Agriculture and Sustainability module consists of 5 units as outlined below. The 5 units are designed to take place over 11 one-hour class sessions. The module could be easily reorganized to work in a course with separate lecture and lab sessions. Each module features of a set of readings, in class discussions, and in-class group work activities designed to enhance student engagement with the material and concepts. Units 1 and 2 also include online discussion prompts and homework assignments.

The module would work especially well if the instructor first sets it up by engaging their students in learning about the hydrologic cycle, watersheds, and how drinking water is supplied and wastewater is treated. Instructors are also encouraged to present examples of sustainability in water use after the module is completed.

Unit 1 What is Sustainability in the Context of Water?

In Unit 1, students learn about the essential concepts of sustainability and consider water resource-management objectives through the lens of sustainability.

Unit 2 Water Footprints

In Unit 2, students explore how much water goes into common commodities and will calculate their own water footprints.

Unit 3 Crops and Irrigation Patterns in the United States

In Unit 3, students quantitatively assess how much water is used for irrigating crops and how this varies over spatial scales within the United States. They also consider the accuracy of the water footprint calculators discussed in Unit 2.

Unit 4 Irrigation and Groundwater Mining

In Unit 4, students compare and contrast groundwater well levels in six states and use satellite imagery of the well locations to link groundwater levels to the presence of irrigated crops. The unit aims to demonstrate the unsustainability of groundwater use for agriculture in the central and western United States.

Unit 5 Agriculture and Freshwater Pollution

In Unit 5, students explore how agricultural practices can affect the quality of water resources, with particular focus on nutrient runoff and resulting eutrophication and hypoxia of water bodies.

Making the Module Work

To adapt all or part of the Water, Agriculture, and Sustainability module for your classroom, you will also want to read through

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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 »