National Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix
The Columbian Exchange of Old and New World Foods (Grades 6-8)
6 - 8
Students will explore New World and Old World food origins to understand how the Columbian Exchange altered people’s lives worldwide.
- Where in the World Food Cards*, 1 set of laminated cards per group of 3-4 students
- Projector/computer combo
- Food, Land, and People and World Civilizations PowerPoint
- Projector/computer combo
- Computers for students
- PowerPoint, VoiceThread, or posterboard for student presentations
- Food Origin Research Project rubric
Essential Files (maps, charts, pictures, or documents)
- Where in the World Food Cards ANSWER KEY
- World Map Template
- Food Origin Research Project Rubric
- Where in the World Food Cards
- Food, Land, and People and World Civilizations
Columbian Exchange: period of cultural and biological exchanges between the New and Old Worlds following Columbus’ arrival in the Americas
New World food: foods with origins in the Americas
Old World food: foods with origins in Europe, Africa, or Asia
center of origin: geographic region where a plant first appeared or developed its distinctive properties
Did you know? (Ag Facts)
- Chocolate is a New World food made from the beans of the cocoa tree.1
- The scientific name of the cocoa tree (Theobroma cacao) means "food of the gods."1
- Olives are an Old World fruit. Green and black olives can come from the same tree, green olives are just less ripe.2
Background Agricultural Connections
Interest Approach – Engagement
- Create a poll using polleverywhere.com. Students may respond using computers, cell phones, or any mobile digital device. Ask the simple question: “What is an Old World food?”
- A food with an origin in Asia, Africa, or Europe.
- A food that would be consumed by Neanderthals.
- A food with an origin in the Americas.
- At the beginning of class, review students’ answers and share the background information concerning the Columbian Exchange. Ask:
- Does what people eat depend on where they live?
- Does what they eat correlate with what plants and animals live in that area?
- Has this trend changed in recent years?
Activity 1: My Lunch—A Guided Inquiry into Old World and New World Foods
- Divide the class into small groups of three or four. Ask students to list the things they had for lunch the previous day. Instruct them to be more specific than “pizza” by listing the basic ingredients of pizza—tomatoes, cheese, bread, sausage, etc.
- Explain to students that they are going to explore the origins of their lunch and other foods by participating in a mapping activity. Pass out one world map per group. A fabric map is suggested (see Materials), but a large paper map can work (see the attached template).
- Next, pass out one laminated set of Where in the World Food Cards to each group.
- Starting with the food cards that were ingredients in their lunches, have students place each food card on the map in the location where they think the food originated from.
- When all the groups have finished, ask them if they think they got all of the cards right. Then ask each group to share where they placed one card and ask if the other groups agree or disagree.
Activity 2: Where in the World
- Show and discuss the PowerPoint Food, Land, and People and World Civilizations. Instruct students to move any foods that they have in the wrong location, correcting their maps as you go through the slides. Ask each group to keep a tally count of their moves.
- After going through the PowerPoint, talk about the changes they made. Ask how many moves each group made. Discuss what food would be like if there had been no Columbian Exchange. Would pizza exist as we know it today?
Activity 3: Facts About Food
- Explain to the students that you have only introduced a small sample of the foods of the world and that they are now going to get a chance to individually research and present a food.
- Ask students to pick a food, such as cucumbers or chicken, or assign them one. Have them go to foodtimeline.org, and instruct them to use ctrl + f to search for their food product.
- As part of the research project, ask students to create either a 10-slide PowerPoint, a poster, or a 10-picture VoiceThread about their food to present to the class. Use the Food Origin Research Project rubric to guide students in preparing their presentations.
Concept Elaboration and Evaluation
After conducting these activities, review and summarize the following key concepts:
- The production of specific foods can be determined by geography, climate, or culture.
- The production of spices and various foods in specific areas of the world have impacted world trade. The Columbian Exchange is an example.
We welcome your feedback! Please take a minute to tell us how to make this lesson better or to give us a few gold stars!
Prepare a taste test of foods from the New World and the Old World, such as chocolate, bread, or fruits.
Show clips of Guns, Germs, and Steel.
Dissect a typical meal in the United States, exploring the origins of the meal’s content.
Hold a discussion on the roles that transportation and infrastructure play in food availability for different countries or different communities in the United States.
Use a blender to make hummus, and have a tasting in class, showing students the origin of a simple snack.
Expand your discussion about the origins of food by exploring herbs and spices. These flavorings were part of the Columbian Exchange historically, but also continue to be derived from all over the world. Use the lesson Herbs and Spices of the World.
Suggested Companion Resources
- Chocolate Taste-Testing (Activity)
- The Book of Chocolate: The Amazing Story of the World's Favorite Candy (Book)
- The Story of Food: An Illustrated History of Everything We Eat (Book)
- Popcorn on the Cob (Kit)
- World Fabric Map (Poster, Map, Infographic)
- Ancient Recipes - Foods of Bible Times (Multimedia)
- Eat Happy Project video series (Multimedia)
- How Chocolate Is Made (Multimedia)
- How Stuff Works: Popcorn (Multimedia)
- Pizzas Past and Present video (Multimedia)
- Popped Secret: The Mysterious Origin of Corn (Multimedia)
- Agricultural News (Website)
- Magical Sour Cabbage: How Sauerkraut Helped Save the Age of Sail (Website)
- The Food Timeline (Website)
Agricultural Literacy Outcomes
Culture, Society, Economy & Geography
- Explain the role of exploration and trade in sustaining early societies (T5.6-8.e)
Plants and Animals for Food, Fiber & Energy
- Describe the differences in plants and animals used for food, clothing, shelter, and fuel before and after European settlement of the United States (T2.6-8.a)
Education Content Standards
5-12 History Era 1 Standard 2A:The stages of European oceanic and overland exploration, amid international rivalries, from the 9th to 17th centuries.
Objective 5Evaluate the course and consequences of the Columbian Exchange.
Common Core Connections
Speaking and Listening: Anchor Standards
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.4Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.