BIG IDEAS, ESSENTIAL QUESTIONS and KEY CONCEPTS from OUR GARDEN to TABLE CURRICULUM courtesy of THE CENTER FOR ECOLITERACY Lower Elementary Producing food for our society requires many people and lots of work in planting, growing, harvesting, transporting, and processing crops, and in raising animals for eggs, milk and meat. Upper Elementary There are many ways in which humans have managed the landscape, controlled plant and animal characteristics, and used technology in order to raise crops and animals for food. Middle School Growing and producing food is a complex process that requires making tradeoffs among such factors as economics, environmental costs and benefits, public health implications, animal welfare, and personal views. How do climate, soil, and other conditions affect the ability of crops and animals to thrive? How has farming changed over time in our community and beyond? What people, tasks, steps, and resources are required to produce food and bring it to table? How did ancient cultures acquire the food they needed? In the past and in the present, what effects have raising plants and animals had on the natural environment? How have people used selective breeding to increase the quality and quantity of food? In what ways do decisions about agriculture influence people’s health? How have changes in food and agriculture affected people’s lives – today and in the past? What side effects and trade-offs are involved with various agricultural and food production strategies in both local and world contexts? How are selective breeding and the genetic modification of plant and animal species similar, and in what ways do they differ? What role should economics, environmental costs and benefits, public health implications, and personal views play in decisions involving food and food production? Food Many people work to bring food from the farm to our table. The kinds of crops that can grow in an area depend on the climate and soil. Irrigation and fertilizers can help crops grow in places where there is too little water or soil is poor. Heating, smoking, salting, drying, cooling and airtight packaging make it possible for food to be stored for long intervals before being used. Modern technology has increased the efficiency of agriculture, so that fewer people are needed to work on farms than ever before. Much of the food eaten by Americans comes from other parts of the country or world. Early in human history, there was an agricultural revolution in which people changed from hunting and gathering to farming. This allowed changes in the division of labor and the development of new patterns of government. People control some characteristics of plants and animals they raise by selective breeding and by preserving varieties of seeds (old and new) to use if growing conditions change. In agriculture, as in all technologies, there are always trade-offs to be made. Getting food from many different places makes people less dependent on weather and conditions in any one place, yet more dependent on transportation and communication among far-flung markets. Specializing in one crop may risk disaster if changes in weather or increases in pest populations wipe out that crop. Also, the soil may be exhausted of some nutrient, which can be replenished by rotating the right crops. By eating locally grown and seasonal foods, we can minimize the resources needed to produce food. Agricultural technology requires trade-offs between increased production and environmental harm and between efficient production and social values. In the past century agricultural technology led to a huge shift of population from farms to cities and a great change in how people live and work. Government sometimes intervenes in matching agricultural supply to demand in order to ensure a stable, high quality, and inexpensive food supply. Regulations are often also designed to protect farmers from abrupt changes in farming conditions and from competition from other countries. New varieties of farm plants and animals have been engineered by manipulating their genetic instruction to produce new characteristics. 97