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Fertilizers and the Environment

Secondary

Description

This resource examines the role of fertilizers in meeting the challenge of feeding a growing world population on a finite amount of arable land. Students will recognize that fertile soil is a limited resource and describe how fertilizers can increase food production and but also contribute to nutrient pollution.

Activity 1: Students participate in a simulation to illustrate the amount of available land for growing food.

Activity 2: Students examine population data and related articles to determine the amount of additional farmland that will be required by 2050

Activity 3: Students identify the advantages and disadvantages of using organic and commercial fertilizers. They also consider how to minimize nutrient pollution.

 

General Assessment

What skills does this resource explicitly teach?

Students have an opportunity to practice the skills involved with gathering, interpreting and presenting information in support of a given position.

Strengths

The challenges faced in feeding a growing world population with limited resources is a critical one and this resource helps students to explore part of the debate over how we may increase food production. The resource provides a structured format for student consideration of the role of fertilizer in that debate.

Weaknesses

The resource introduces a number of the issues students should consider in deciding about the role of fertilizer but may be strengthened by including other elements such as the link between commercial fertilizers and fossil fuels that are relevant to the debate.

Recommendation of how and where to use it

Students may explore the role of fertilizer in food production in

. Geography - resources and environmental sustainability

. Environmental Science -land use/population and the environment

. Science - Environmental Chemistry 

. Social Studies - resource use and sustainable development

Teachers may wish to use this resource in combination  with others that examine agricultural practices to help students recognize all perspectives.

Relevant Curriculum Units

The following tool will allow you to explore the relevant curriculum matches for this resource. To start, select a province listed below.

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  • Alberta
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    • Grade 9
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      • Science
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        • Environmental Chemistry
        • Knowledge and Employability Science: Environmental Chemistry (Social and Environmental Contexts Emphasis)
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        • Science 9: The biosphere, geosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere are interconnected, as matter cycles and energy flows through them.
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      • Environmental Science
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        • Environmental Science 12: Sustainable land use is essential to meet the needs of a growing population
      • Social Studies
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        • Human Geography 12: Human activities alter landscapes in a variety of ways.
  • Manitoba
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        • Geographic Issues of the 21 st Century: Food from the Land
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        • World Geography: A Human Perspective - World Food Supply: Production and Distribution
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        • Citizenship and Sustainability: Area of Inquiry: Environment
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        • Advanced Environmental Science 120: Earth Systems
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        • Canadian Geography 1202: Economic Issues in Canadian Geography
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        • Environmental Science 3205: Land Use & the Environment
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        • Chemistry and the Environment
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        • Issues in Canadian Geography (Academic): Liveable Communities
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        • Environmental Science (Univ/College Prep.) Sustainable Agriculture and Forestry
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        • (College Prep.) Chemistry in the Environment
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        • Global Connections
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        • Interdependence: Atlantic Canada in the Global Community: Environment in the Global Community
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        • Environmental Science 621A: Human Population and Carrying Capacity
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        • Geography 621A Global Issues : Inquiry- What are the issues?
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        • The Contemporary World: Environment
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        • Contemporary World: Environment
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        • Science 9: The biosphere, geosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere are interconnected, as matter cycles and energy flows through them.
    • Grade 12
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      • Environmental Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Environmental Science 12: Sustainable land use is essential to meet the needs of a growing population
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Human Geography 12: Human activities alter landscapes in a variety of ways.

Themes Addressed

  • Food & Agriculture (3)

    • Conventional Farming
    • Food Security
    • Organic Farming
  • Human Health & Environment (1)

    • Hunger and Malnutrition

Sustainability Education Principles

Principle Rating Explanation
Consideration of Alternative Perspectives Satisfactory

Students are asked to consider the case for fertilizer use in general and the relative merits of different fertilizers. The information presented, while reliable, would not seem to be as thorough or complete  as it might be to recognize all elements of the debate.

Consideration of Alternative Perspectives:
  • Satisfactory: absence of bias towards any one point of view
  • Good: students consider different points of view regarding issues, problems discussed
  • Very good: based on the consideration of different views, students form opinions and  take an informed position
Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions Good

In deciding on the place of fertilizers in agriculture, students are asked to consider the socio/economic challenges associated with feeding a growing world population when the amount of agricultural land is limited. They are also asked to consider the environmental and economic consequences attached to using different types of fertilizers. 

Fertilizer use is explored in the context of sustainable development. Students consider our collective responsibility to feed those faced with hunger and malnutrition and act as good stewards of the environment.

Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions:

Effectively addresses the environmental, economic and social dimensions of the issue(s) being explored.

  • Satisfactory: resource supports the examination of  these dimensions
  • Good:  resource explicitly examines the interplay of these dimensions
  • Very Good:  a systems-thinking approach is encouraged to examine these three dimensions
Respects Complexity Satisfactory

While the discussion of fertilizer use is examined within the framework of environmental and socio/economic considerations, all relevant arguments would not seem to have been included.  

Respects Complexity:

The complexity of the problems/issues being discussed is respected.

Acting on Learning Poor/Not considered

The goal of the resource is limited to raising the and exploring the issue of fertilizer use. 

Acting on Learning:

Learning moves from understanding  issues  to working towards positive change — in personal lifestyle, in school, in the community,  or for the planet

  • Satisfactory: action opportunities are included as extensions 
  • Good: action opportunities are core components of the resource
  • Very Good: action opportunities for students are well supported and intended to result in observable, positive change
Values Education Satisfactory

The debate over fertilizer use is placed in the context of sustainable development in which we must consider our responsibility to feed those faced with hunger and malnutrition and act as good stewards of the environment.

Values Education:

Students are explicitly provided with opportunities to identify, clarify and express their own beliefs/values.

Empathy & Respect for Humans Poor/Not considered
Empathy & Respect for Humans: Empathy and respect are fostered for diverse groups of humans (including different genders, ethnic groups, sexual preferences, etc.).
Personal Affinity with Earth Good

The debate over fertilizer use of necessity should include reference to the health of the soil and the impact of fertilizer use on bodies of water and the plant and marine life therein.

Personal Affinity with Earth:

Encourages a personal affinity with -the natural world.  

  • Satisfactory: connection is made to the natural world
  • Good: fosters appreciation/concern for the natural world
  • Very Good: fosters stewardship though practical and respectful experiences out-of-doors 
Locally-Focused Learning Good

Whether the classroom is a rural or urban one, all students are consumers of food products and therefore have an investment in how the food food they eat gets to their tables. 

Locally-Focused Learning:

Includes learning experiences that take advantage of issues/elements within the local community. 

  • Satisfactory: learning is made relevant to the lives of the learners
  • Good: learning is made relevant and has a local focus
  • Very Good: learning is made relevant, local and takes place ‘outside’ , in the community 
Past, Present & Future Good

The focus is on the current and future availability of farmland and the requirements for feeding tomorrow's population. 

Past, Present & Future: Promotes an understanding of the past, a sense of the present, and a positive vision for the future.

Pedagogical Approaches

Principle Rating Explanation
Open-Ended Instruction Satisfactory

The goal is to have students arrive at their own conclusions regarding fertilizer use but the information presented would seem to favour a particular conclusion.

Open-Ended Instruction :

Lessons are structured so that multiple/complex answers are possible; students are not steered toward one 'right' answer.

Integrated Learning Good

The role of fertilizer in feeding the current and future world population is addressed in the context of sustainable development and therefore includes content found in Economics (supply and demand), Environmental Studies(environmental impact of fertilizer use), Social Studies(world hunger and malnutrition), Science(science and technology).   

Integrated Learning:

Learning brings together content and skills  from more than one  subject area

  • Satisfactory: content from a number of different  subject areas is readily identifiable
  • Good:  resource is appropriate for use in more than one subject area
  • Very Good:  the lines between subjects are blurred 
Inquiry Learning Satisfactory

The students are presented with a question - what is the role of fertilizer in agriculture? - and information in the form of a series of Masters to help them address the question.

Inquiry Learning:

Learning is directed by questions, problems, or challenges that students work to address.   

  • Satisfactory: Students are provided with questions/problems to solve and some direction on how to arrive at solutions.
  • Good: students, assisted by the teacher clarify the question(s) to ask and the process to follow to arrive at solutions.  Sometimes referred to as Guided Inquiry
  • Very Good:  students generate the questions and assume much of the responsibility for how to solve them.  . Sometimes referred to as self-directed learning.

 

Differentiated Instruction Satisfactory

Activities include a presentation that uses an apple as a model of Earth to demonstrate availability of agricultural land; student analysis of population projections and world food requirements;student investigation of the advantages and disadvantages of commercial and organic fertilizer. These activities include guided presentation by the teacher, students working in teams, and role playing.

The resource also includes a number of suggested companion resources that include relevant videos and websites.

Differentiated Instruction:

Activities address a range of student learning styles, abilities and readiness.

  • Satisfactory:  includes a variety of instructional approaches
  • Good: addresses  the needs of visual, auditory &  kinesthetic learners
  • Very Good: also includes strategies for learners with difficulties
Experiential Learning Satisfactory

The World in an Apple activity serves to make concrete the limited amount of agricultural land available. The sources of information provided the students for their investigation include a mock newspaper and a number of charts and graphs produced by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Experiential Learning:

Authentic learning experiences are provided

  • Satisfactory: learning takes place through ‘hands-on’ experience or simulation
  • Good: learning involves direct experience in a ‘real world context’
  • Very good: learning involves ‘real world experiences’ taking place’ beyond the school walls.
Cooperative Learning Satisfactory

In Activity 2 (Using land Wisely), the class is divided into teams of 3 students to investigate how future population growth may affect farming in the future. Activity 3 ( Fertilizers and the Future) groups students into teams of agriculture experts that are asked to make recommendations to the Earth Food Bank about how to farm in the future.

Cooperative Learning:

Group and cooperative learning strategies are a priority.

  • Satisfactory:  students work in groups
  • Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught and practiced
  • Very Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught, practiced and assessed
Assessment & Evaluation Satisfactory

Student response to teacher guided inquiry and presentations by student teams allow for formative evaluation.

Assessment & Evaluation: Tools are provided that help students and teachers to capture formative and summative information about students' learning and performance. These tools may include reflection questions, checklists, rubrics, etc.
Peer Teaching Satisfactory

The grouping of students into teams to investigate, report and recommend requires students interacting with and learning from other students.

Peer Teaching:

Provides opportunities for students to actively present their knowledge and skills to peers and/or act as teachers and mentors.

  • Satisfactory: incidental teaching that arises from cooperative learning, presentations, etc.
  • Good or Very Good: an opportunity is intentionally created to empower students to teach other students/community members. The audience is somehow reliant on the students' teaching (students are not simply ‘presenting')
Case Studies Satisfactory

The resource does not have students study individual countries or regions that will face challenges in feeding its people but satisfies itself to look at the broad picture where farmers will be called upon to feed more people with limited agricultural land.

Case Studies:

Relevant case studies are included.  Case studies are thorough descriptions of real events from real situations that students use to explore  concepts in an authentic context.

Locus of Control Satisfactory

The organization of students into teams to investigate and report allows for the assignment of tasks that recognize individual interests and talents. 

Locus of Control: Meaningful opportunities are provided for students to choose elements of program content, the medium in which they wish to work, and/or to go deeper into a chosen issue.