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AGRICULTURAL ECOSYSTEMS - Balancing Human and Environmental Needs in Agricultural Production - Lesson 3

OVERVIEW: As the human population continues to grow, we can expect landscapes to continue to change to meet humankind’s survival needs. However, with limited land available for conversion, we face a global challenge of balancing production of food, fiber, and fuel with protection of valuable natural resources and stable ecosystems. In this lesson, students are challenged to examine this challenge through the lens of a modern Midwest American farm family.

The balancing of human and environmental needs is known as “sustainable development”, but the term “sustainable” can have many meanings. Students will compare their ideas of “sustainability” with what “sustainability” means to farmers. In agriculture, many farmers are adopting more sustainable or regenerative practices to balance social, economic, and environmental values. These three values are also known as the three pillars of agricultural sustainability according to the United States Department of Agriculture. Students will learn about a Nebraska farm family, the Paulman’s, as they seek sustainable solutions to protect their land and livelihood while remaining profitable. Students will explore the complex economic, environmental, and social values that impact the Paulman family farming goals.

Students will play an interactive crop farming game to examine the complex decisions and factors that affect farming. By reflecting on game play and relating their experiences to real-world farming decisions, students can begin to identify economic and environmental factors that are within or outside of the farmers’ control including weather and markets.


AGRICULTURAL ECOSYSTEMS - Balancing Human and Environmental Needs in Agricultural Production - Lesson 3

AGRICULTURAL ECOSYSTEMS - Part I: Stability and Change in Natural and Agricultural Ecosystems

AGRICULTURAL ECOSYSTEMS - Student Resources

AGRICULTURAL ECOSYSTEMS - Teacher Resources (All)


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.