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New York Agriculture in the Classroom

Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix

Lesson Plan

My Agricultural Connections

Grade Level
9 - 12

Describe the local and global complexities in the agricultural systems that provide for our basic needs—food, clothing, and shelter. Grades 9-12

Estimated Time
1 hour in class, plus homework
Materials Needed

Engage: Give One, Get One

Explore and Explain: Listen for Understanding


agriculture: the science, art, or practice of cultivating the soil, producing crops, and raising livestock and in varying degrees the preparation and marketing of the resulting products

Did You Know?
  • The average American eats about 68 quarts of popcorn each year.1 
  • Bananas are most likely the first fruit ever to be grown on a farm.2 
  • Americans eat approximately 100 acres of pizza each day, or 350 slices per second!3 
  • Americans are eating 900% more broccoli than we did 20 years ago.4 
  • Globally, pork is the most consumed meat.6 
  • Climate change is predicted to decrease corn yields by 24% and increase wheat yields by 17% by 2030.5 
  • The U.S. is a net exporter/importer of agricultural goods. Our largest trading partners are Canada, Mexico, and China.7 
Background Agricultural Connections

How do you define the word agriculture? The Merriam-Webster Dictionary states that it is the “science, art, or practice of cultivating the soil, producing crops, and raising livestock and in varying degrees the preparation and marketing of the resulting products.” An accurate definition, but this definition doesn’t impart the integral nature or importance of agricultural products—food, clothing, and shelter—in our daily lives. This seemingly simple definition represents a very complex system! 

The milk for your cereal began on a dairy farm just a few days before your breakfast. The dairy farmer relies on veterinarians and animal nutritionists to keep their cattle healthy. The farm may grow their own cattle feed or purchase it from another farm. Employees of the farm care for the cows from calf to adult and milk the cows daily. Truckers haul the milk from the farm to a bottling plant, where food scientists test the milk to be sure it is pure and healthy, the milk is homogenized, pasteurized, bottled, and boxed with the help of packaging engineers before it is shipped off to grocery distribution centers finally making it to your local store, then to your breakfast table. All along the way people work to pay bills, buy and sell supplies, market and advertise the milk, build cooling systems, machinery, and packaging. Scientists investigate the health of dairy cows, the nutritional value and safety of the milk, and more. Grocery staff stock the dairy cases with the gallon jugs and help you bag your groceries. Each step of this farm to table process is subject to governmental regulations and is affected by the ups and downs of the global economy. Each step considers its impacts to the environment and must manage the effects of unpredictable weather (Milk Means More, 2018). The path milk takes from cow to cereal bowl is similar to that of many, many other agricultural products, most with many other processing steps to become the food, clothing, fuel, or building products we use every day.  

From differences in crops and livestock grown around the world to climate change to consumer buying preferences to food insecurity, international policy and technological innovations, agriculture is a very complex topic. While high school students might recognize the ways agriculture provides directly for their food, clothing, and shelter, exploring some of these complexities will help prepare these young adults for making voting or purchasing decisions or further study of economics, science, or policy. 

Lesson Pedagogy

In this lesson, we will use two Making Meaning thinking routines to synthesize connections for deeper learning. Using thinking routines, such as the give one get one technique, graphic organizer, and mind mapping strategy encourage students to think critically, connecting their own experiences to course content (Ritchhart & Church, 2020). Over time, thinking routines can develop deeper understanding of course content though independent, critical thinking. It is important explanations and goals of each practice be intentional and clear to students for the most effective use of each routine. More examples of thinking routines can be found in Project Zero’s Toolbox.  

The Give One Get One technique helps students to actively listen to each other, and formulate their own thoughts based on others’ comments or questions. This thinking routine provides a topic for discussion, asks students to make their own list of thoughts then engage with other students to expand on their lists. This lesson also uses graphic organizers as a teaching strategy to explore the complexity of the agricultural system.  Graphic organizers are research-based visual instructional tools that facilitate learning and student achievement. The use of graphic organizers is a teaching strategy that meets the needs of most learners through the visualization of connections within one topic or theme. How do they work? Graphic organizers relate new concepts to the learners’ preexisting understandings, which helps them to recognize new relationships between concepts. These associations help students to retain what they have learned. In addition, these visual tools may be used to help access student knowledge and identify student misconceptions. 

Most often, one single concept is the center of the map with related words or phrases bridging connections between each. To build additional meaning, questions or words of connection should/could be written on the bridges to clarify connections or ask for understanding. This making meaning mind map is a graphic organizer, it also requires students to construct and explain how elements within a concept are related and, if prompted by a teacher, what they mean to them on a personal, local, national, or global basis (Ritchhart & Church, 2020). This can serve as an assessment tool; showing where students have adequate background on a topic, have questions, or show lack of understanding.  


Students will work in groups, each individually listening to the same podcast or viewing a YouTube video, then, working together, use a mind map to identify the complexity of the given topic. Topics should be based on the topic of the podcast or YouTube video which could be selected to align with current class content or areas of students’ interests. If desired, a whole class could focus on the same topic, each listening/viewing to the same digital source, then creating individual mind maps to demonstrate differing viewpoints on the same topic based on personal beliefs and experiences.  

Browse podcasts and YouTube videos in lesson materials list. Consider your class content, specific curriculum focus, and/or individual student interests to select appropriate media for your students. This lesson is designed to be completed in groups of up to five students. Each group should be assigned a different podcast or YouTube video. Alternate options could include providing one podcast/video to the whole class or assigning each student a different podcast/video.  

This lesson uses the following podcasts and YouTube videos as media sources on the following topics:

  1. Ask students the following questions:
    • What did you have for breakfast? How did it get to your table?
    • What is your clothing made out of? How did it get to you?  
  2. Project the Farm Web graphic and allow students to begin studying it. Explain that this is an image elementary students use to make connections about where their food and fiber (clothing and wood products) come from. Frame the lesson as a challenge similar to, "Are you smarter than a 5th grader?" Explain that they will be exploring additional elements and complexities necessary for the agricultural system to function.  
  3. Show the class the Food Systems Innovation video. Prompt students to write down at least three complex connections observed in the video. 
  4. After the video, students should find a partner. Each share their observations, each writing down one new idea on their list of complex connections and explaining the significance of this connection to them.  
  5. Once initial partnership has exchanged ideas, students should move to a new partner. Set a specific number of partner swaps (example: share ideas with 3 different partners) or a specific amount of time (example: we will partner, share and swap for 15 minutes).  
  6. When the partner sharing has ended, ask students to return to their seats. If seated in tables or pods, initiate group discussions at the tables, asking students to share their favorite new idea or connection they had not thought of previously with their table group.  
  7. As students are sharing, listen for new ideas or key points to share with the entire class. This group sharing could be conducted as a whole class if the classroom setting is not conducive to table group sharing.  
  8. Wrap up the discussion by indicating we will be further exploring some of these connections.  
Explore and Explain
  1. Divide the class into small groups of 2-4 students. Assign each group one podcast or YouTube video by giving them one of the My Agricultural Connections Prompt sheets. Each sheet has a QR code to a different media piece.  
    • Alternate option: The entire class could be assigned the same media for an in-depth focus on a specific topic.
  2. Explain the Take Note process for active listening. Explain that greater understanding is achieved by identifying key ideas and questions while reading or listening.  Ask students to watch or listen to their media piece and take notes on their prompt sheet.
  3. After listening to the assigned media, students should stay assembled in their assigned groups. 
  4. Provide each groups with chart paper/roll paper and markers.
    • Optional: If you wish to use a digital tool for the mind mapping in this lesson, is a great tool.   
  5. Instruct each group to write the general topic from their media piece in the center of the sheet (nutrition, technology, water, etc.).
  6. Next, each group member should reflect on what they learned from their media piece and, one at a time, add one word or short phrase to the diagram surrounding the main word(s), without duplicating one another’s words.  
  7. One at a time, group members should add on to another’s word or phrase. These additions could turn one word into a phrase or be a particular word that comes to mind, associated with the first word. At this point, two people could add on to the same word or phrase, growing the mind map.  Show students Example Mind Maps as needed.
  8. Time to make connections! Each group should discuss connections they see between the words, drawing lines between the words, typing connecting thoughts, ideas, or questions on the connecting lines. Groups should identify at least 5 different careers associated with different segments of their map. During this phase, students may not be individually writing each connection. Groups should be verbally discussing connections while completing the mind map. 
  9. Be sure the mind maps are saved and accessible to come back to later.  
  10. In blank space around the diagram, each student should record one connection or question between the media content and a word/phrase on their mind map. Students could indicate their initials or name near their connection/question for assessment purposes. Surrounding the diagram, students should write/type questions they have related to their mind map and their media prompt. Examples could include: 
    • How does the media content/topic relate to their life?  
    • Are there benefits they are receiving from this topic, either directly or indirectly?  
    • How is their community affected by the topic?  
    • How is the broader global community affected?  
  11. On a scrap paper or note page, students should individually devise their own definition or short explanation (1-3 sentences) of the media prompt.  
  12. Leave each group's chart paper hanging in class.  
  13. Show students the Complexities of our Global Food System graphics. Allow them some time to review the maps and ask the groups to consider these questions: 
    • Are there any connections on the Basic, Global, or Individual Role maps you do not understand?
    • What what major element(s) did you not consider on your map?
  14. Ask the groups to share their responses to the two questions above.
  • Individually or as groups, students select one career listed on their original mind map to investigate further. Investigation could include postsecondary training required, job tasks, salary, possible career locations, types of further training needed (certificate/license renewals, graduate degrees, exams to pass, etc.), organizations supporting this career, and other similar facts.  
  • Arrange for a guest speaker associated with any of the topics discussed in class. Contact your state or territory's Agriculture in the Classroom program for suggestions of qualified individuals in the content areas.  
  1. As a final step, on a sticky note, scrap paper, or class notebook, ask students to individually reflect on the prompt: How does your group’s assigned topic and the connections discovered affect your daily life? (consider ways you interact with the products discussed. For example, do you consume, wear, or use these products?)
  2. Review and summarize the following key concepts:
    • The agricultural-food system is complex and provides for our daily needs. 
    • Scientists are working together with farmers to apply new technologies to agricultural uses to decrease environmental impacts.  
    • Labor shortages exist in agriculture, particularly for crops that require a lot of hands-on work to plant, manage, and harvest. Inventors are experimenting with ways robots can take on these tasks when there are not enough humans to hire. 
    • Food safety is of primary importance at every step of the farm to table process. Farmers work with veterinarians, food scientists, and others to ensure the plants and animals they raise provide healthy products.  
    • Agricultural researchers are helping find ways to raise crops and livestock while navigating a changing climate.  
    • The global supply chain affects U.S. agriculture.  
    • Consider ways the subjects of this discussion connect to your local economy, agriculture, or other industry.  
Amelia Miller
National Center for Agricultural Literacy
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