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Crop Production Lessons

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AGRICULTURAL ECOSYSTEMS - Introducing the Unit Engineering Design Challenge - Lesson 5

OVERVIEW: The challenge of sustainably producing agricultural goods on a global scale can be an overwhelming issue for students to consider. In addition, testing sustainable practices can be difficult or impossible for them to do on a large scale due to time and space considerations.

This lesson introduces a unit design challenge which allows students to design, build, and test a small-scale sustainable growing system that is productive, wisely uses limited resources, and considers environmental quality. To embark on this challenge, students will engage in the engineering design process (involving the steps: Ask, Research, Imagine, Plan, Create, Test, and Improve).

AGRICULTURAL ECOSYSTEMS - Examining Plant Needs in a Growing System - Lesson 6

OVERVIEW: The next key step in the engineering design process is to research the problem. In order to construct a successful growing system students will first need to better understand the needs of the specific plant they will be growing. In this lesson, students will gather and synthesize information about survival needs and growing conditions for Wisconsin Fast Plants (Brassica rapa) in an indoor growing system. Students will use their research to create a plan for providing proper growing conditions in their growing system.

AGRICULTURAL ECOSYSTEMS - Imagining, Planning and Building a Growing System - Lesson 7

OVERVIEW: After students have gained some understanding of underlying sustainability principles in the research step of the engineering design process, they can now apply their learning to design sustainable growing systems.

In this lesson, students will use the information and knowledge gained from their research on growing productive crops, being efficient when using resources, and protecting soil health and water quality to brainstorm potential designs, select their favorite, create a plan for providing their plants with a suitable environment, and build a prototype.

AGRICULTURAL ECOSYSTEMS - Selecting Measures for Testing & Evaluating Growing System Designs - Lesson 8

OVERVIEW: To evaluate if student designs are successful, students will need to select feasible measurements to gauge productivity, limited resource use, and conservation outcomes in their growing system designs.

In this lesson, students will learn how to calculate cost-benefit ratios (such as yield and efficiency) to determine productivity and limit resource use. They will also learn how nitrate testing may be used as a measure of water quality. Students will use their knowledge of these calculations and tests to create a data collection plan that can be used to evaluate if growing systems meet the criteria and constraints of the unit engineering challenge.


AGRICULTURAL ECOSYSTEMS - Preparing for the Challenge

AGRICULTURAL ECOSYSTEMS - Introducing the Unit Engineering Design Challenge - Lesson 5

AGRICULTURAL ECOSYSTEMS - Examining Plant Needs in a Growing System - Lesson 6

AGRICULTURAL ECOSYSTEMS - Imagining, Planning and Building a Growing System - Lesson 7

AGRICULTURAL ECOSYSTEMS - Selecting Measures for Testing & Evaluating Growing System Designs - Lesson 8

AGRICULTURAL ECOSYSTEMS - Self Assessment

AGRICULTURAL ECOSYSTEMS - Part II: Engineering Sustainable Agricultural Ecosystems

AGRICULTURAL ECOSYSTEMS - Student Resources

AGRICULTURAL ECOSYSTEMS - Teacher Resources (All)


Listen and Watch Corn Grow:


Corn Growth in 7 Days:


Various Cover Crops:


Watch Corn Recovery from Hail in 5 Days:


Soybean Recovery from Hail in 17 Days:


Soybean Aphid Reproduction:


Corn Harvest in 360°:


Contents address the following Next Generation Science Standards:

Part I: Stability and Change in Natural and Agricultural Ecosystems:

MS-LS2-2. Construct an explanation that predicts patterns of interactions among organisms across multiple ecosystems.

MS-LS2-4. Construct an argument supported by empirical evidence that changes to physical or biological components of an ecosystem affect populations.

MS-ESS3-4. Construct an argument supported by evidence for how increases in human population and per-capita consumption of natural resources impact Earth’s systems.

Part II: Engineering Sustainable Agricultural Ecosystems:

MS-ETS1-1. Define the criteria and constraints of a design problem with sufficient precision to ensure a successful solution, taking into account relevant scientific principles and potential impacts on people and the natural environment that may limit possible solutions.

MS-ETS1-2. Evaluate competing design solutions using a systematic process to determine how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.

MS-ETS1-3. Analyze data from tests to determine similarities and differences among several design solutions to identify the best characteristics of each that can be combined into a new solution to better meet the criteria for success.

MS-ESS3-3. Apply scientific principles to design a method for monitoring and minimizing a human impact on the environment.

MS-LS2-5. Evaluate competing design solutions for maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem services (water purification, nutrient recycling, prevention of soil erosion, etc.).

MS-LS2-1. Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for the effects of resource availability on organisms and populations of organisms in an ecosystem.