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Agriculture Helping you every day

AgMag Teacher's Guide Spring 2017-18

Why Ag in the Classroom?

Agriculture means survival. Over time, fewer and fewer people have close contact with farming and the total agricultural sector. They're not aware of their own and society's total dependence on agriculture. People must be agriculturally literate in order to make responsible decisions affecting this giant lifeline.

Teaching students to be agriculturally literate brings their learning to life. Helping students understand the farm-to-delivery connection is important in our consumer-driven society. That's what the student Minnesota AgMag Series is all about.

Integration Ideas

Social Studies

  • Research the role that water and other natural resources have played throughout the history of Minnesota. Ideas include formation of cities, transportation, moving goods, power source for manufacturing, etc.
  • Use the information on pages 7 to discuss the reasons that bring Hmong, East African, Hispanic, Asian, Indian, and other immigrants and refugees to Minnesota. Compare and contrast their experiences with earlier immigrant groups in the nineteenth century.

Science and Health

  • Use the agricultural examples in the AgMag to focus on environmental science and natural resources.
  • Discuss how farmers and scientists work together. The examples of data collection and observation on the Meyer Dairy Farm (page 4) can serve as examples to get a discussion and brainstorming session started.
  • Use the information describing conservation practices used on Little Timber Farms (page 5) to identify opportunities to reduce erosion and protect soil and water on your school grounds or in your community.
  • Pollinator-friendly plans are planted on Little Timber Farms (page 5). Assist students in discovering the pollinators that allow plants to produce their favorite fruits and vegetables.
  • Research the nutritional value of these foods and their location on the MyPlate diagram.
  • Use the science and technology connections to agriculture on pages 7 to discuss the impact of STEM on food production and the agricultural industry.


Some words in your AgMag may be unfamiliar to your students. These words often appear in bold type or in italics. Many are defined in the articles. Words you may wish to pre-teach are:

AQUATIC: Of or relating to water, such as plants or animals that live in water

AQUIFERS: An underground layer of water-bearing permeable rock or materials such as gravel, sand, or silt from which groundwater can be extracted

BUFFER STRIPS: A strip of land with grass or natural vegetation along waterways, lakes, and rivers

CARBON: A chemical compound that is necessary for plants to live and grow

COMPOSTING: Taking things like grass clippings and food scraps and piling them together to begin the process of decomposition

CONSERVATION: Taking action to preserve something, especially a natural resource

DECOMPOSE: A natural process that breaks down things like grass clippings and food scraps and eventually turns them into soil

EVAPORATION: Process in which a liquid transforms into a gas

FLUME: A human-made water channel in which water is routed above the ground rather than through a ditch or trench

GROUNDWATER: Groundwater is the water found underground in aquifers

IMMIGRANTS: A person who moves from one country to settle in another

IRRIGATION: The process of watering land via manmade mechanisms

NATURAL RESOURCES: Materials from the earth that humans use to consume or to make manmade products

NITROGEN: An important nutrient needed for plants to grow green structures like stems and leaves. An important part of protein.
Plants use this to create amino acids, which are the foundation of protein

PHOTOSYNTHESIS: The process used by plants to convert energy from the sun into chemical energy that supports the plants

POLLUTANTS: Something that introduces unclean elements into something else, especially water, soil, or air. This can include things like animal waste into water.

PRECIPITATION: Rain, snow, sleet, or hail that falls from the sky to the ground

PRECISION FARMING: Using digital software, drones, and GPS systems linked to satellites to help farms be more productive and exact when planting crops, managing weeds and pests, and harvesting.

ROTATIONAL GRAZING: The practice of moving cattle from one pasture to another to allow each pasture time to rest and regenerate

RUNOFF: Water that moves so fast the land cannot absorb it

STEWARDSHIP: Taking good care of something, like natural resources

STRIP CROPPING: A method of farming that alternates types of crops through a field in narrow strips, often to prevent soil erosion

TRANSPIRATION: The process where moisture travels through a plant, with much of it eventually evaporating

SURFACE WATER: Water on the surface of the Earth, such as lakes, ponds, and streams

Minnesota Academic Standards Connection

Subject Standard Code Benchmark
Social Studies Explain how humans adapt to and/or modify the physical environment and how they are in turn affected by these adaptations and modifications.
Social Studies Locate, identify, and describe major physical features in Minnesota; explain why physical features and the location of resources affect settlement and the growth of cities in Minnesota.
Social Studies Describe how land was used during different time periods in Minnesota history; explain how and why land use has changed over time.
Social Studies Identify the major Minnesota political figures, ideas and industries that have shaped or continue to shape Minnesota and the United States today.
Science Describe a natural system in Minnesota, such as a wetland, prairie, or garden, in terms of the relationships among its living and nonliving parts as well as inputs and outputs.
Science Give examples of beneficial and harmful human interaction with natural systems.

AgMag Cover (Social Studies, Science, Environmental Studies)

  1. Just what are Minnesota's natural resources? Brainstorm a list; think about all the wonderful things that occupy our air, land, and water. Why is it necessary to protect these treasures?
  2. What natural resources can you find in these pictures? (Water, air, plants)
  3. Why do we say farmers are some of our most important environmentalists? (They manage such a large amount of land— nearly three-quarters of the land in Minnesota— €”so the ways they care for and protect resources are very important.)

Student Pages 2 and 3 (Social Studies, Science, Economics)

  1. What are the different ways that water, soil, and air are important for agriculture? (Plants and animals need water to grow and survive; soil is needed to grow plants and provide them with nutrition, and is also home to other things like insects that are helpful for plants; clean air helps grow healthier plants)
  2. How many ways do you use water each day? How much water do you use? (Showering, 5 gal/min; toilet flushing, 6 gal; brushing teeth, 2 gal; hand washing, 2 gal; automatic dishwasher, 15 gal/load; washing machine, 20-30 gal/load.) How could you save water in your daily activities?
  3. Farmers do much more than just the listed activities to protect water and the environment. What are some other things they do? (Leave some land undisturbed to protect native plants and create wildlife habitat; plant trees as windbreaks to reduce soil erosion; use computer-based precision farming to manage planting, fertilizing, irrigation and crop protection applications, etc.)
  4. What are some things you can do to keep the air clean? (Ride bikes or walk to places rather than ride in a car, or have several people ride in one vehicle together, like a school bus; use less electricity when possible, as generating electricity can cause air pollution; plant trees!)

Why Do Farmers Do These Things? Answers

(Accept other logical answers too)

  1. Keeps materials and pollution out of water a, d, e, f and g
  2. Helps reduce loss of soil to wind or water erosion b, f and h
  3. Conserves water a, b, c, d, e, g, h
  4. Helps keep animal waste out of rivers, wetlands and lakes d, e

Student Pages 4 and 5 (Science, Environmental Education)

Farmers Taking Care of Natural Resources

  1. Why is the work being done at Discovery Farms and the Conservation Stewardship Project important? (They're learning how to conserve water and how to keep water sources and soils healthy and clean; this will be important for both crops and livestock; they will share their learnings with other farmers)
  2. Why would farmers want to prevent water from evaporating? (When it evaporates before being absorbed into the soil, the plant and soil don't benefit from the liquid)
  3. How would putting fences around ponds and along rivers help keep their waters clean? (Livestock can't enter them, bringing dirt and bacteria with them; livestock also can't release waste there)

Think and Discuss:

What are some reasons for runoff? (Rainstorms, snow melt, floods)

What happens if runoff is not controlled? (Soil erosion, transfer of pollutants, uproot new crops)

Why is it valuable for farmers to raise plants that attract pollinators? (Pollinators are necessary to pollinate plants)

Cause and Effect

Some potential answers:

Cause: Crop and pasture rotations
Effect: Helps soil replenish nutrients and avoid insect pests

Cause: Leaving cornstalks in the soil instead of plowing them into the soil
Effect: Prevents soil from blowing away or washing away

Cause: Putting fencing up around ponds or rivers
Effect: Keeps livestock from getting into the water and helps keep the water clean

Student Page 6 (Science, Social Studies, Health)

  1. Why is eating well so important? (Our bodies thrive on good food and do not benefit from non-nutritious choices. Good nutrition helps our bodies stay strong and well. The body you have now is the only one you will ever have. Do your best to keep it healthy!)
  2. What are some ways you can eat more healthfully? (Follow MyPlate, eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, cut down on things like sugar and fried foods, eat lean proteins)
  3. Is your school using locally grown food in its food service program? Use the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm to School Census Data to find out. You can search by state and school district at: https://farmtoschoolcensus.fns.usda.gov/find-your-school-district
  4. Where in your community can you find locally grown foods? Are there farm markets or farm stands? Do local grocery stores sell local foods?

Your Plate:

Have students examine one meal from your school's lunch menu(s). Have them use lunch menu items to create their own "MyPlate" by adding the items to the correct column (for example, carrot sticks under Vegetables).

Student Page 7 (Science, History, Social Studies)

  1. How can the scientific and technological advances in agriculture benefit farmers? Consumers? (Farmers can be more efficient with their time. Some technology tools and advancements in crop production allow for lower levels of pesticides and herbicides to be used. Farmers are able to use science and research in seed and plant development to increase their yields (amount of the crop produced). The living conditions for livestock animals (temperature, light, space, etc.) can be optimized so the animals produce more milk, eggs, wool, etc. Consumers have a greater quantity and variety of food products to select from.)
  2. Today Minnesota welcomes immigrants and refugees from Asia, Africa, Europe, Mexico, and many other countries. Regardless of where their journey began, these newcomers bring foods and traditions that enrich us all. What foods have you eaten that came to us from other countries? Think Mexico, China, Japan, Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries, Somalia, and Europe. What foods did your ancestors bring from their homelands?
  3. Why is it important for young people to be involved in agriculture and farming? (Agriculture is the giant lifeline that feeds, clothes, and shelters the world. Each generation depends on farmers to provide these things, all needed for survival.)
  4. Imagine you want to be a farmer. What would you need to learn in order to run a farm? To grow crops? To raise livestock? Who could teach you these things? How would you get money to buy or rent land and equipment? (Many young people get their start in farming because they grow up in farm families, learning from parents and grandparents. They may take over family farms when older generations retire. High school and college courses help, too. The University of Minnesota and many other schools have programs for people who want to study agriculture or become farmers. See the University of Minnesota's College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Sciences [CFANS] at www.cfans.umn.edu. For a list of schools all around Minnesota offering courses in agriculture, natural resources and related fields, see www.schoolchoices.org/colleges/in/minnesota/field/1.)

Student Page 8

Nutrients for Soil

  1. Why does soil need nutrients? (to provide nutrition for plants so they can provide nutrient rich food for animals and people)
  2. What kinds of things can be composted? (Many foods and food peels/rinds, coffee grounds and tea leaves, grass clippings, dead plants, dryer lint, hair, products that naturally decompose, like paper and cardboard)
  3. What kinds of things should not be composted? (Meat, bones, grease or oil [they attract pests and don't break down well]; pet droppings [can contaminate the compost with bacteria]; coal or charcoal ashes [may contain materials that are toxic to plants]

Compost Essentials

Twigs: Brown
Apple core: Green
Dried leaves: Brown
Straw or hay: Brown
Grass clippings: Brown
Wood chips: Brown
Potato peel: Green
Melon rind: Green

For 7 Generations

What do you think this meant?
Potential answers: Think how what you do will affect people many years from now; take care of the earth; think long-term

How would thinking like this make a difference in what we do to the environment today?
Potential answers: Discussion of caring for our natural resources

Are You Water Wise? [reproducible]

2. Rain
5. Glaciers
8. Aquifers
9. Groundwater

1. Fertilizer
3. Surface water
4. Gas
6. Pollution
7. Agriculture

Minnesota's water borders include the Red, Rainy, Mississippi, St. Louis, Bois de Sioux, Pigeon and St. Croix Rivers, and Lake Superior. Our borders with Canada also include boundary waters.

AgK - Plant Animal or Both