National Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix

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Growing a Nation: Growing Technology

Grade Level(s)

9 - 12

Estimated Time

45-60 minutes

Purpose

Students will be introduced to technologies currently used on farms by engaging in an AppQuest to discover how farmers use mobile apps to manage farm production systems, marketing options, and make timely decisions. 

Materials

Activity 1: Farming AppQuest

  • Technology Scenarios, 1 copy per class
  • Farming AppQuest Scenario Cards, 1 copy per class
  • Computer or device for each student group

Activity 2: Event Exploration

  • Growing a Nation timeline and necessary projection equipment or computer lab
  • Demonstration of Learning Strategies

Essential Files (maps, charts, pictures, or documents)

Essential Links

Vocabulary

app: an application used on a mobile device to perform a task

technology: an application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes, especially in industry

Did you know? (Ag Facts)

  • Farmers can use Twitter, YouTube, and other media to keep updated on new farming techniques, equipment, and trade advice.1
  • Many farming decisions rely on weather. Weather forecasting apps are among the most used apps by farmers. In fact, many farmers report using multiple weather apps and place weather stations on their farms.2
  • During harvest, a grain farmer can use an app to know the location of every combine, truck, and cart to eliminate delays waiting for machinery.3
  • A farmer can program a drone from his phone to fly a predetermined each day to monitor crop growth.3

Background Agricultural Connections

The Information Age was an era of great technological and scientific advancements. Agriculture has changed drastically with the implementation of technology. The use of technology can be found in nearly every aspect of our daily lives and has revolutionized the farm. Some technology is in its infancy and some has already been adopted globally looking to a future of needing to provide food, fuel, and fiber for an estimated 10 billion people by 2050.

Here are a few examples of technology on the farm:

Autonomous Robots

 

Agriculture requires a significant amount of manual labor. What do you think a robot could do? Autonomous pickers identify and pick ripe fruits and vegetables. Other specialized robots could also find and eliminate weeds and pests that damage crops.

Agriculture sensors

Precise timing is key! When it comes to nutrient management, watering, pest management, and harvest; too early or too late doesn’t cut it. High-tech sensors located in fields send alerts to farmers through an app on their phone when it’s time to take action.

Aerial crop imaging

 

Arable land suitable to produce our food is a limited resource. Aerial images taken with drones, satellites and planes can help farmers map their fields and use the land to its greatest potential. Drones could perform crop monitoring, planting and even spraying.

Agriculture data systems

Record keeping and data collection helps farmers identify successful solutions and areas that need improvement. Notebooks are being replaced with digital platforms. Farm data such as annual crop yield, market forecasts, soil nutrients and weather are collected and stored electronically to give farmers valuable information as they make decisions.

Global Positioning Systems

 

GPS-based applications are being used for farm planning, field mapping and more! The farmer is always present, but one of the most popular features of GPS is the tractor can drive itself to ensure perfect rows that precisely apply exactly what the seed needs to grow. Not too much, not too little.

Vertical and indoor farming

Growing crops up, instead of out! Now that’s a good idea! Vegetables and fruits tend to work the best in vertical farming, but who knows what the future will hold. Vertical farming is ideal where land isn't available and it can even re-purpose abandoned structures.

Livestock health and activity monitors

 

 

The livestock industry utilizes technology in a variety of ways to ensure animal health, safety, and welfare. For example, “smart collars” are used like a personal fit bit, tracking daily activity, behavior and health. Breath analysis can be done with high-tech equipment allowing farmers to evaluate potential health problems and diet. Thermal imaging and 3D cameras have the capability of analyzing an animal’s body muscle and weight to advise the farmer when to sell their livestock.

Fish farms and aquaponics

Traditional farming requires land, water, and nutrients. Specialized fish farms involve raising fish in tanks or enclosed ponds. Aquaponic systems are a unique way to grow fish and plants symbiotically. By using a zero-waste system, waste from the fish is cycled through the system to grow the plants.

Cultured meats

Another alternative protein source is cultured meat. It isn’t “meat” in the traditional sense as it doesn’t come from processing an animal. It is a formed in a lab using animal cells. Cultured meat uses techniques to engineer tissues to form a meat alternative.

New seed varieties

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and CRISPR technology edits genes in plants to overcome a challenge such as a disease. One GMO plant takes approximately 8-10 years to research and ensure its safety which costs around $130 million dollars to produce. There are currently 10 GMO crops approved for growing – the most common are varieties of corn, soybean, cotton, sugar beets and canola.

Interest Approach – Engagement

  1. Divide the class into 7 groups. Give each group one sheet from the Technology Scenarios printout.
  2. Assign students to read their scenario and find a technological solution for the challenge they have been given. Give students 10-15 minutes to research their challenge and find a solution. As students perform research, give prompts as needed to be sure they recognize the need for technology to be a part of their solution. For example, one farmer cannot visually monitor thousands of acres of crops or count the steps of an entire herd of dairy cows.
  3. After students have found their solution, have them share it with the class.

Procedures

Activity 1: Farming AppQuest

  1. Ask students to brainstorm all of the ways that a smart phone can be used as a "tool." As students offer suggestions, have a discussion about various apps that they use and what is accomplished by using each.
  2. Based on your discussion, identify specific categories that specific phone apps can fit in. Examples include communication (phone, texting, social media), record keeping or scheduling (calendar, to-do lists, notes), tools (QR code scanner or calculator), etc.
  3. Ask students, "What do you think a farmer can accomplish from their phone?"
  4. Divide the class into 10 groups. Give each group one Farming AppQuest Scenario Card
  5. Explain to students that they have been assigned the food commodity listed on their handout. Their task is to find six apps a farmer could use to make their farm more productive and efficient. Teacher Tip: If possible, use the Google Play Store rather than the App Store. In pilot testing, students searching Google Play found more apps in their search. If Android devices are not available, go to Google Play's website.
  6. Give students an example of an app used by a dairy farmer by watching the video, Connecterra: Using AI To Give Nature a Voice
  7. Prior to beginning their search, instruct students on helpful search terms as well as general topics such as:
    • Crop Management:
      • Fertilizer application or nutrient monitoring
      • Irrigation
      • Weather
      • Farm management
      • Marketing 
    • Livestock Management: 
      • Weather
      • Herd health
      • Farm Management
      • Financial records
      • Marketing
  8. After students have completed their AppQuest, have each group share one app they found which they feel would be most valuable to a farmer.

Activity 2: Event Exploration

  1. Using a projector, mobile devices, or computer lab, review the Growing a Nation: Information Age section of the multimedia timeline. The Growing a Nation events and sub-events are designed to be adaptable to a variety of teaching strategies. Each Main Event contains sub-events that explore American history for a greater understanding of the time period or historical cause and effect relationships. The sub-events ask higher order questions to not only expand student knowledge, but also to increase their comprehension to the level of application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.
  2. After students view selected events and sub-events, assign or allow students (or student groups) to choose a sub-event tile. Students can work off of a computer or mobile device or take a screenshot of the selected sub-event and print.
  3. Ask the students to be prepared to answer the questions on their tile by either using the Think, Pair, Share strategy or by using one of the attached Demonstration of Learning Strategies. You may want to choose a particular strategy to use with the entire class or cut the strategies into strips and ask each student to pick one or two. If the student or groups of students is allowed to pick two, ask them to choose the learning strategy they prefer and put the other one back. Keep in mind that some Demonstration of Learning Strategies will be a better fit for some of the event topics than others and that some may take more time than others. Some strategies may need to be grouped depending on the available time.

Concept Elaboration and Evaluation

After conducting these activities, review and summarize the following key concepts:

  • Farms employ highly sophisticated technology to increase the production of food and manage challenges such as drought, pests, weeds, climate change, and more.
  • Scientists and engineers continue to work to develop even more technologies to improve the production of our food.
  • The use of technology on the farm has impacted society. For example, advanced technology has allowed fewer farmers to provide food for our growing population. Future advances in technology will continue to bring changes to society.

Important
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!

 

Suggested Companion Resources

Agricultural Literacy Outcomes

Science, Technology, Engineering & Math

  • Correlate historical events, discoveries in science, and technological innovations in agriculture with day-to-day life in various time periods (T4.9-12.a)
  • Describe how agricultural practices have contributed to changes in societies and environments over time (T4.9-12.b)
  • Evaluate the benefits and concerns related to the application of technology to agricultural systems (e.g., biotechnology) (T4.9-12.d)
  • Identify current and emerging scientific discoveries and technologies and their possible use in agriculture (e.g., biotechnology, bio-chemical, mechanical, etc.) (T4.9-12.e)

Education Content Standards

Within CAREER

Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources Cluster Skills

  • CS.01.02
    CS.01.02
    Examine technologies and analyze their impact on AFNR systems.

Within HISTORY

NCSS 8: Science, Technology, and Society

  • Objective 4
    Objective 4
    Consequences of science and technology for individuals and societies.
  • Objective 6
    Objective 6
    Prediction, modeling, and planning are used to focus advances in science and technology for positive ends.
  • Objective 11
    Objective 11
    That achievements in science and technology are increasing at a rapid pace and can have both planned and unanticipated consequences.
  • Objective 12
    Objective 12
    Developments in science and technology may help to address global issues.

Common Core Connections

Reading: Anchor Standards

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.2
    CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.2
    Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.

Speaking and Listening: Anchor Standards

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.1
    CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.1
    Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.2
    CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.2
    Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.

Language: Anchor Standards

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.4
    CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.4
    Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases by using context clues, analyzing meaningful word parts, and consulting general and specialized reference materials, as appropriate.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.6
    CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.6
    Acquire 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.

 

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