Sustainable Future Curriculum

Exploring the Environmental Impacts of Our Food

Our modern food system has a profound impact on the environment – polluting our land, air, and water; depleting natural resources; and contributing to global climate change. Farm Sanctuary offers a free curriculum for middle and high school teachers, exploring animal agriculture’s effects on our planet and building scientific literacy on environmental phenomena related to our food system.

Sustainable Future Curriculum at a glance:

  • Environmentally focused lessons aligned with Next Generation Science Standards
  • Lessons follow the 5E Model, encouraging students to learn through engagement and exploration
  • Within each lesson, you’ll find an Overview, Essential Question(s), Lesson Time, Student Learning Objectives, Resources, Materials, and Next Generation Science Standards
  • References include the CDC, EPA, FAO, NASA, NRDC, USDA, and more

Global Warming & Our Food System:
A Greenhouse Effect Inquiry Lab

Middle School Earth Science Lesson 1

Lesson Time
Section 1: 60–75 minutes
Section 2: 60–75 minutes

Overview

The surface of the earth is warmed by the sun’s radiation. Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere of the Earth “trap” some of this radiation that would otherwise be released back into space, warming the planet. This is known as the greenhouse effect. Without the greenhouse effect, there would be no life on earth.

  • Students will develop a model to explore how the greenhouse effect works in an inquiry-based laboratory activity.
  • Students will differentiate between the greenhouse effect, global warming, and climate change.
  • Students will also investigate some of the factors that are increasing greenhouse gas emissions and resulting in global climate change such as clearing land for agriculture and raising animals for food.

Next Generation Science Standards

MS-ESS3-5. Ask questions to clarify evidence of the factors that have caused the rise in global temperatures over the past century.

Clarification Statement: Examples of factors include human activities (such as fossil fuel combustion, cement production, and agricultural activity) and natural processes (such as changes in incoming solar radiation or volcanic activity). Examples of evidence can include tables, graphs, and maps of global and regional temperatures, atmospheric levels of gases such as carbon dioxide and methane, and the rates of human activities. Emphasis is on the major role that human activities play in causing the rise in global temperatures.

MS-ETS1-4. Develop a model to generate data for iterative testing and modification of a proposed object, tool, or process such that an optimal design can be achieved.


Environmental Impacts & Our Food System:
Exploring the Evidence

Middle School Earth Science Lesson 2

Global climate change is the greatest threat to the survival of polar bears, who rely on sea ice to hunt and travel.

Lesson Time
Section 1: 60–75 minutes
Section 2: 60–75 minutes

Overview

Modern animal agriculture has a pronounced impact on natural resources like land, water, and fossil fuel. Industrialized agriculture or factory farms, along with small farms, produce significant amounts of waste and are inextricably connected to the scale at which humans are able to raise billions of animals each year for food. The sheer number of animals raised for food has sparked concerns about animal agriculture, including the magnitude to which it is polluting our land, air, and water as well as contributing to global climate change.

  • For this activity, students will learn how the volume and scale of modern animal agriculture is connected to pollution, depletion, and degradation of natural resources and global climate change.
  • Students in small groups will construct an argument supported by evidence that explores a phenomenon related to animal agriculture and the environment.

Next Generation Science Standards

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.

Clarification Statement: Examples of evidence include grade-appropriate databases on human populations and the rates of consumption of food and natural resources (such as freshwater, mineral, and energy). Examples of impacts can include changes to the appearance, composition, and structure of Earth’s systems as well as the rates at which they change. The consequences of increases in human populations and consumption of natural resources are described by science, but science does not make the decisions for the actions society takes.

MS-ESS3-5. Ask questions to clarify evidence of the factors that have caused the rise in global temperatures over the past century.

Clarification Statement: Examples of factors include human activities (such as fossil fuel combustion, cement production, and agricultural activity) and natural processes (such as changes in incoming solar radiation or volcanic activity). Examples of evidence can include tables, graphs, and maps of global and regional temperatures, atmospheric levels of gases such as carbon dioxide and methane, and the rates of human activities. Emphasis is on the major role that human activities play in causing the rise in global temperatures.


Food Production & CO2 Equivalents:
Creating a Computational Simulation

High School Environmental Science Lesson 1

Lesson Time
Section 1: 50 minutes
Section 2: 50 minutes
Section 3: 50 minutes

Overview

Global warming can be attributed to an increase in greenhouse gas production. Many people assume that this increase primarily results from the burning of fossil fuels, for instance from cars, but the agricultural industry is actually a major contributor. In this lesson, students will compare the carbon footprint of different types of foods to explore where greenhouse gases are coming from and which foods produce the most emissions.

  • Students will use carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e) to compare the amount of greenhouse gases released from different processes during food production.
  • Students will use a spreadsheet to graph data in order to compare the CO2e for plant-based and animal-based food production.
  • Students will then use a formula to calculate the number of miles driven by a typical car for 1 kg of different types of food.

Next Generation Science Standards

HS-ESS3-3. Create a computational simulation to illustrate the relationships among management of natural resources, the sustainability of human populations, and biodiversity.

Clarification Statement: Examples of factors that affect the management of natural resources include costs of resource extraction and waste management, per-capita consumption, and the development of new technologies. Examples of factors that affect human sustainability include agricultural efficiency, levels of conservation, and urban planning.

Assessment Boundary: Assessment for computational simulations is limited to using provided multi-parameter programs or constructing simplified spreadsheet calculations.


Animal Agriculture & the Environment:
Creating a Computational Representation

High School Environmental Science Lesson 2

Animal agriculture is the leading cause of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon rainforest.

Lesson Time
Section 1: 50 minutes
Section 2: 50 minutes
Section 3: 50 minutes
Section 4: 50 minutes

Overview

For this activity, students will learn how computational representations are used to simplify mathematical relationships. Students will research and gather data on the impact that the rise in industrialized farming has on the environment and the far-reaching consequences that animal agriculture has on humans. Students will use these data to create an infographic, a format that uses computational representations in order to visually explain a topic.

  • Students will explore different types of infographics and methods for graphically representing data.
  • Students will develop a claim based on their research of a topic related to animal agriculture and its effects on humans and the environment.
  • Students will locate data that supports their claim and express it graphically, creating at least three computational representations (through pie charts, bar graphs, etc.).

Next Generation Science Standards

HS-ESS3-6. Use a computational representation to illustrate the relationships among Earth systems and how those relationships are being modified due to human activity.

Clarification Statement: Examples of Earth systems to be considered are the hydrosphere, atmosphere, cryosphere, geosphere, and/or biosphere. An example of the far-reaching impacts from a human activity is how an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide results in an increase in photosynthetic biomass on land and an increase in ocean acidification, with resulting impacts on sea-organism health and marine populations.

Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include running computational representations but is limited to using the published results of scientific computational models.


Teacher Survey

Complete our teacher survey to help us build and improve on these resources and receive a $50 Amazon gift card! Teachers who have implemented one complete Lesson Plan from Farm Sanctuary’s Sustainable Future Curriculum are eligible to complete the survey.


Teacher Contact Form

If you are interested in submitting student feedback and completing our Teacher Survey, or if you have any questions about Farm Sanctuary’s Sustainable Future Curriculum, please submit the contact form below and a Farm Sanctuary Humane Educator will be in touch. Thank you for your interest in creating a more compassionate and sustainable world!