National Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix
Google Earth on the Range
6 - 8
Students will study Utah geography, history, and economics by examining rangelands using Google Earth and repeat photography.
- America’s Heartland video Utah Cattle Drive—Ranching Round-Up
- Repeat Photographs of Rangelands, laminated and cut apart
- A Google Earth on the Range Repeat Photographs Kit is available for purchase.
- Google Earth
- Repeat Photographs in Google Earth file
Concept Elaboration and Evaluation
- Utah Rangelands Discussion activity sheet
- The Utah Journey textbook
- Computer with internet access for each student
- Ridin' the Range Webquest
- Ridin' the Range Webquest Answer Key
Essential Files (maps, charts, pictures, or documents)
- Ridin' the Range Webquest Answer Key
- Repeat Photographs of Rangelands
- Repeat Photographs in Google Earth File
- Utah Rangelands Discussion Activity Sheet
biodiversity: biological diversity in an environment as indicated by numbers of different species of plants and animals
carrying capacity: the maximum number of animals a piece of land can support without degradation
forage: food for animals especially when taken by browsing or grazing
rangeland: open land vegetated mainly by native grasses, forbs, and shrubs used by grazing wildlife and livestock
Did you know? (Ag Facts)
- Rangelands cover about 45 percent of the earth's land surface.1
- About 36 percent of the land in the United States is rangeland.1
- Over 80 percent of Utah's land is rangeland.1
Background Agricultural Connections
Interest Approach – Engagement
- Show students the first four minutes of the America’s Heartland video Utah Cattle Drive—Ranching Round-Up.
- Use the following questions as a guideline to discuss the video:
- What was the purpose of the cattle drive? (To move the cows to summer pasture.)
- Why might cows be kept in different places in the summer and winter? (In the heat of summer, pastures at higher elevations often have more green grass for longer than lower elevations. In the winter, high elevation pastures have inhospitable weather. Additionally, many ranchers have permits to graze on public lands for a specified period of use each year, meaning the animals must be moved in when the period begins and out when the period ends.)
- Who participated in the cattle drive? (Ranch family members and paying customers who wanted the experience.)
- Why do ranchers raise cattle? (Cattle are sold for beef; many by-products, such as leather, also come from beef cattle. Ranching and raising cattle is also a lifestyle and tradition.)
- Explain to students that grazing is one way to make use of rugged landscapes that are otherwise unsuitable for agriculture. These same landscapes are also valued for recreation, wildlife habitat, and other uses. In the following activity, students will explore how landscapes change over time and how different land uses affect people and the environment.
Activity 1: Change on the Range
- Provide each student with a landscape photo. Inform them that they have either a “before” or “after” picture, and that they need to find their partner who has the matching landscape. Students may find the following suggestions useful when looking for their matching landscape:
- Human-made structures, trees, and other plants come and go over time, so they are not always a reliable method of identifying a landscape.
- Erosion may increase or decrease in an area, but that usually does not significantly change the topography (the lay of the land—slopes, boulders, curvatures, etc.), so looking for these features first is a good starting point.
- Once students have located their partners, have students guess which picture is the “before” and which is the “after.”
- Share the background information with students and introduce the vocabulary. Have them discuss and then write a paragraph that describes their landscape based on what they learned from the background information.
- At this point, students are ready to explore Google Earth to find the location of their pictures, read the official description of their landscape, and compare that description to their own paragraph. There are two options for this step, depending on what kind of technology is available:
- Option 1—If a computer lab is available, download the zipped file Repeat Photographs in Google Earth onto each computer, extract it, and open it in Google Earth. Explain the mechanics of Google Earth, and allow students to explore on the map on their own or through a teacher-led discussion.
- Option 2—If a computer with projection is available, conduct a teacher-led discussion of the material, while each group has the chance to maneuver through the Google Earth area around their picture location. Information in the Repeat Photographs in Google Earth file will show students the exact latitude and longitude where the camera was placed for each picture, the year each picture was taken, and what the pictures mean in context of erosion and rangeland management.
Concept Elaboration and Evaluation
- Both of the following activities will help students more deeply understand the concepts discussed in the Change on the Range landscape photo activity:
- Option 1—Use the attached Utah Rangelands Discussion activity sheet and the seventh grade textbook The Utah Journey to further explore Utah’s land resources and assess student understanding.
- Option 2—Have students complete the Ridin' the Range Webquest. In order to complete this activity, students will need a computer with internet access, the link to the webquest, and an email to send the finished webquest to (provide them your email if you would like to receive their finished work). Within the webquest, students will be directed to the following websites to find answers to the questions:
- After conducting these activities, review and summarize the following key concepts:
- Public lands have multiple uses that are important to many different groups of people.
- Each land use carries a specific set of benefits and consequences that affect people and the environment.
- Grazing cattle for beef production is one use of public lands. Grazing can be beneficial to the environment if it is managed properly or harmful to the environment if poorly managed.
- Rangelands can be public or private land. They are located in open spaces where there is forage beneficial to grazing livestock, and they are generally not ideal for crop farming due to a variety of factors which can include rugged topography, limited water resources, etc.
- Rangelands are defined in part by their physical geography. Physical geography affects what plants and animals live in an area as well as what kinds of activities humans undertake in an area.
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!
Have students do a close reading of the Utah State University Extension article Federal Lands Grazing Permits: Managing Rangeland Resources and/or the National Geographic article Northern Montana's Hi-Line: Homesteading in the West to further explore the modern and historical challenges of ranching and rangeland management.
Use the Ranch Starter Kit to have students start their own "ranch" and learn how grazing can help or hurt rangelands.
Use the video Time-Controlled Grazing to show students how close management of grazing can benefit both livestock and the environment.
Suggested Companion Resources
- Google Earth on the Range Repeat Photographs (Kit)
- Ranch Starter Kit (Kit)
- Changes & Challenges: Utah Agriculture (Multimedia)
- Illustrated Accounts of Moments in Agricultural History (Multimedia)
- NMSU Field Trip: Beef (Multimedia)
- Riding the Range on a Utah Cattle Drive (Multimedia)
- TedTalk- How to Fight Desertification and Reverse Climate Change (Multimedia)
- Esri GIS for Agriculture (Website)
Agricultural Literacy Outcomes
Agriculture and the Environment
- Discuss (from multiple perspectives) land and water use by various groups (i.e., ranchers, farmers, hunters, miners, recreational users, government, etc.), and how each use carries a specific set of benefits and consequences that affect people and the environment (T1.6-8.d)
- Recognize how climate and natural resources determine the types of crops and livestock that can be grown and raised for consumption (T1.6-8.g)
Education Content Standards
5-8 Geography Standard 1: How to use maps and other geographic representations, geospatial technologies, and spatial thinking to understand and communicate information.
Objective 3Geospatial technologies--Internet-based mapping applications, GIS, GPS, geovisualization, and remote sensing-- can be used to construct geographic representations using geospatial data.
NCSS 2: Time, Continuity, and Change
Objective 2Concepts such as: chronology, causality, change, conflict, complexity, multiple perspectives, primary and secondary sources, and cause and effect.
NCSS 3: People, Places, and Environments
Objective 3Past and present changes in physical systems, such as seasons, climate, and weather, and the water cycle, in both national global contexts.
Common Core Connections
Language: Anchor Standards
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.6Acquire and use accurately a range of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when encountering an unknown term important to comprehension or expression.