National Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix
Journey 2050 Lesson 5: Land Use (Grades 6-8)
6 - 8
Students will recognize that arable land (ideal land for growing crops) is a limited resource, identify best management practices that can be applied to every stakeholder’s land-use decisions; and analyze and discuss the impacts of food waste on our environment. This lesson is listed on NSTA's website as a Classroom Resource.
- Apple, knife and cutting board
- Apple Land Use Model, available for purchase from agclassroomstore.com (optional)
- Land Use PowerPoint
- Journey 2050: Land Use video
- Sustainability Farming Game: Level 5
Essential Files (maps, charts, pictures, or documents)
best management practices: the best way to do something; best management practices and technology enable us to grow more with less
habitat: the place where a plant or animal naturally lives
population density: a measurement of population per unit area or unit volume
sustainable: meeting the economic, social and environmental needs of the present without compromising the needs of the future
Did you know? (Ag Facts)
- Over 70% of Earth is covered in water and cannot be used to grow crops.1
- Earth has 57 million square miles of land, but only 12 million square miles are arable (ideal conditions for growing crops).2
- In North America one in four calories intended for consumption are never actually eaten because the food is lost as waste (refer to Lesson 1, activity 3 for more information on food waste).3
Background Agricultural Connections
Interest Approach – Engagement
- Open the Land Use PowerPoint.
- Begin by reminding students how many people are currently on planet Earth (7.4 billion in 2016) and that expert demographers are anticipating over 9 billion people by the year 2050 (www.Worldometers.info).
- Optional: Remind students what one billion looks like by asking:
- “If I give you one million dollars and you spend $1,000 every day when will you run out of money?” (2.7 years)
- “How long would it take to spend a billion dollars if you spent $1,000 every day?” (2,740 years)
- This mental exercise will help students to understand that 9 billion is a very large number.
- Slide 2: Ask students, “How can we feed the growing population?” Students will likely say that we need to grow/produce more food. Before you offer any additional information, conduct the following demonstration (the Apple Land Use Model can be used as an alternative demonstration option):
- Hold up an apple and explain that it represents planet Earth. Ask, “How much of the Earth’s surface do you think is ideal for growing crops?”
- Ask, “If you look at a globe or map, what is the main color you see?” (Blue) Cut the apple into four equal-sized wedges. Nearly three of these quarters represent land covered in water. Set these aside.
- The remaining quarter represents land, which occupies roughly 30 percent of Earth’s surface. Take this piece, and cut it in half lengthwise so you have two, one-eighth sections.
- One of these sections represents deserts, swamps, mountains and polar regions; this half of our land, or one-eighth (12.5 percent) of Earth’s surface, is not suitable for people to live or grow crops on. Set this section aside.
- The other eighth represents land where people can live. There are some places where people can live but crops can’t be grown. Slice this section into four equal parts. Now you have four 1/32nd pieces of apple, each representing roughly 3.1 percent of Earth’s surface.
- The first section represents the areas of the world with rocky soils that are too poor for growing crops. Set this section aside.
- The next two sections represent land that is too wet or too hot for crops. Set these sections aside also.
- The fourth section represents the area of the world that is most suitable for development and agricultural cultivation. The best lands for agriculture are often desirable places to build homes and towns as well.
- Carefully remove the peel of the last 1/32nd section. This small bit of peel represents all the soil on Earth, which humans depend on for growing crops. Display slide 3 of the PowerPoint for further illustration.
- Ask students, “Can farmers simply plant more acres of crops to feed a growing population?” (No) Point out that the population may increase, but the amount of arable farmland will stay the same.
- We use our land for many different things, and we need to make smart choices to take care of the land. As a result of science and innovation, nearly 40 percent of Earth’s land is used for agriculture.1 Raising livestock on land that is too hilly or rocky for growing crops, growing urban gardens, and planting seeds that grow in tough conditions like drought are all ways to grow more food on the same amount of land.
- Explain that in order to feed 9 billion people, farmers will need to use best management practices, like preserving soil nutrients, improving water conservation and using arable land efficiently to grow the food, fiber, fuel and by-products that we use every day. This will need to be done in a sustainable way to minimize environmental impacts and maintain a high quality of life.
Preparation: Prior to class, review the Background Information, video clip and PowerPoint slides (including the speaker notes) associated with the lesson. Watch the Getting Started with Journey 2050 video and if needed, refer to the Teacher's Guide: Getting Started document paying particular attention to page 2 where you will find the instructions for downloading the Sustainability Farming Game.
- Slide 4: Play the Journey 2050: Land Use video (4:41 min). Prepare students for the video by asking them to discover two things: 1) Why is land a precious resource? 2) How are best management practices applied to land use choices? (Background and discussion prompts are outlined in the steps below and in the PowerPoint notes.)
- Why is land a precious resource?
- Slide 6: Ask, “What is our land used for?” (habitat, food, recreation, homes, industries, agriculture, etc.) Explain that land is a precious resource. There are many things that influence how land is used and what it is used for.
- Slide 7: Display the Worldometers website to show your class the live population statistics for the 20 largest countries in the world.
- Optional: If time allows, challenge students to discover which of these countries has the highest and the lowest population density. (Russia has only 9 people per km2, and India has 452 people per km2.) Make it a race with a prize to see who can figure it out first. This statistic can be found on the Worldometers website by clicking on each individual country in the list Top 20 Largest Countries by Population.
- Slides 8–9: Display the Population Statistics by Country Map and Agricultural Land Map, and ask students if they can see a relationship between human population and agricultural land. Students should recognize that we are building our homes and businesses in the areas that have the best climate and soil for growing crops! Historically, people have settled near water and fertile land in order to grow crops. As cities grow the urban footprint expands into areas that are habitat and farmland.
- Explain that farmers have increased yields (food production) by using improved practices, science and technology. For example, plant scientists have developed plants that are resistant to insects, disease and drought; soil scientists and land managers have developed soil conservation practices; and irrigation engineers have developed systems and delivery mechanisms to minimize water use and still grow a bountiful crop. Yields have constantly gone up. Compared to 50 years ago, the world uses 68% less land to produce the same amount of food.1
- How are best management practices applied to land use?
- Slide 11: Ask, “How do we improve our land-use choices so that we can feed a growing world and still maintain a high quality of life and healthy environment?” We need to use best management practices (see the Best Management Practices video; 1:06 min). Best practices are simply the best way to do something. For example, in school, if you attend class, engage in the content and study, you will do well in the course. Similarly, we can also think about the best ways to use our land sustainably by preserving natural habitats, using agricultural best management practices and planning for urban growth.
- Slide 12: Open Level 5a of the Sustainability Farming Game on each student’s computer or device. Explain the following, “In this level, you will make predictions for the percentage of land used by nature, urban and agriculture in the 1900s compared to the year 2000”. Next, explore best management practices that each stakeholder should employ in our journey and come up with your own ideas that could be implemented to make better land-use choices.
- Slides 13–16: Review slides as a class and discuss the noted best management practices.
Review and summarize the following key concepts: (Slide 17)
- Three percent of Earth’s surface (10% of the Earth's land) has ideal conditions for growing crops.
- Most of our urban areas were built on ideal crop land. Our ancestors settled where they could grow food and cities grew from there.
- The quality of the soil under our homes and businesses is the real challenge in the journey. The challenge also spreads to our natural areas. Protecting the Earth’s biodiversity and natural resources is vital to our survival.
- Every land use decision we make has a consequence. Best management practices are essential in our journey to sustainably feed the world while balancing social, economic and environmental needs.
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!
Using slide 19 of the Land Use PowerPoint, distribute the Country Comparison Map and have students find similarities and differences in climate, topography, culture and food production across the globe.
Share the TedTalk by Allan Savory, How to Fight Desertification and Reverse Climate Change. This 22 minute talk discusses how and why fertile grasslands are changing into desert and how livestock can help.
Using slide 19 of the Land Use PowerPoint, have students play the Journey 2050 Where in the World Geography Game. This is a Q&A style game that has clues embedded in each question. Print or project the Land Use Map (PowerPoint slide 9) and Country Comparison Map for a quick reference. Before the game begins, ask the students to think of their favorite foods, sports, music and places to travel as well as things that they love about their country. Explore where some of their favorite things come from and how trading goods around the world allows us to enjoy those things. Make sure the students are aware that in the game, spelling counts. The game takes about 15 minutes to complete.
Suggested Companion Resources
- Journey 2050 Program Summary (Activity)
- Agronomy - Grow with It! (Book)
- If the World Were a Village (Book)
- Planet Zorcon (Kit)
- Ag Census Web Maps (Poster, Map, Infographic)
- Apple Land Use Model (Poster, Map, Infographic)
- 9 Billion Mouths to Feed: Leading the Way to Abundance and Sustainability (Multimedia)
- Agriculture and the Sustainable Development Goals (Multimedia)
- Apple as Planet Earth video (Multimedia)
- Food Machine (Multimedia)
- Growing Today for Tomorrow Video (Multimedia)
- How Reducing Food Waste Could Ease Climate Change (Multimedia)
- Journey 2050 (Multimedia)
- Population, Sustainability, and Malthus: Crash Course World History video (Multimedia)
- TedTalk- How to Fight Desertification and Reverse Climate Change (Multimedia)
- World Population History (Multimedia)
- EarthPulse (Website)
- Responsible Acre (Website)
Agricultural Literacy Outcomes
Agriculture and the Environment
- Describe benefits and challenges of using conservation practices for natural resources (e.g., soil, water, and forests), in agricultural systems which impact water, air, and soil quality (T1.6-8.b)
- 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)
- Recognize the factors of an agricultural system which determine its sustainability (T1.6-8.h)
Education Content Standards
Natural Resource Systems Career Pathway
NRS.02.02Assess the impact of human activities on the availability of natural resources.
NRS.02.03Analyze how modern perceptions of natural resource management, protection, enhancement and improvement change and develop over time.
NRS.04.01Demonstrate natural resource protection, maintenance, enhancement and improvement techniques.
Economics Standard 1: Scarcity
ObjectiveIdentify what they gain and what they give up when they make choices.
Economics Standard 2: Decision Making
ObjectiveMake effective decisions as consumers, producers, savers, investors, and citizens.
NCSS 7: Production, Distribution, and Consumption
Objective 1Individuals, government, and society experience scarcity because human wants and needs exceed what can be produced from available resources.
NCSS 8: Science, Technology, and Society
Objective 2Society often turns to science and technology to solve problems.
Objective 4Science and technology have had both positive and negative impacts upon individuals, societies, and the environment in the past and present.
MS-ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
MS-ESS3-3Apply scientific principles to design a method for monitoring and minimizing a human impact on the environment.
MS-ESS3-4Construct an argument supported by evidence for how increases in human population and per-capita consumption of natural resources impact Earth’s systems.
Common Core Connections
Reading: Anchor Standards
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.4Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.6Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.8Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, including the validity of the reasoning as well as the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence.
Speaking and Listening: Anchor Standards
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.1Prepare 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.5Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information and enhance understanding of presentations.