Let's Vote On It
6 - 8
In this lesson, students will hold a mock election to learn the importance of becoming well informed on the pros and cons of voting measures that affect our local economies, our environment, and our quality of life. Grades 6-8
Two, 50-minute sessions and 30 minutes of homework
For each student:
vote: an expressed wish to follow a specific course of action
Background Agricultural Connections
This lesson is part of a series called Too Much? Too Little? created to introduce middle school students to the connection between soil nutrients and the food they eat. The lessons consist of a series of demonstrations and hands-on experiments that show that plants require nutrients in certain quantities. The lesson series allows students to investigate soil properties, learn how to properly prepare fertilizer nutrient solutions, identify deficiencies in plant nutrients using a key, and much more. Other related lessons include:
- Plant Parts and Functions: Anatomy and physiology of a plant.
- Digging Into Nutrients: How plants obtain nutrients from the soil.
- The Right Solution: How fertilizer solution is properly calculated and applied.
- Can We Have Too Much of a Good Thing?: Effects of applying too much or too little fertilizer.
- The Right Diet for Your Plants: Read fertilizer labels and choose the best fertilizer.
- Let's Vote On It: How soil nutrients effect local communities and economies.
- It's a Dirty Job How earthworms benefit soil.
As rural areas become urbanized and people become more aware and concerned about the environment, voters are constantly asked to make decisions that affect their local communities and, ultimately, the world. Agricultural issues are complex and involve intricate social, economic, and environmental relationships. During this lesson, students will apply their knowledge to realistic situations and should be able to recognize that knowledgeable voters are needed to make appropriate decisions for their communities and the world.
- Ask students what they can do around their homes to be good stewards of our natural resources. For example, how might they dispose of old paint or car engine oil? What if one of their parents asks them to apply lawn fertilizer, how should they do that?
- Ask students what precautions farmers might take to be good caretakers of the soil and water so that food and fiber production can continue while protecting the environment for future generations? Ask students how the general public depends upon farmers and ranchers.
- After class discussion, inform your class that they will be learning how the management of soil nutrients can affect a community.
Explore and Explain
- Have students create a table that is similar to the one below, then pass out the Faraway Fields student handout. Instruct students to jot down key points as they read about the propositions that residents of Faraway Fields will be voting on.
- After they have read the propositions, have students form groups of three or four to discuss what each proposition means. What would a no vote mean? What would a yes vote mean? What are the pros and cons of voting either way? Do voters have all the information they need to make an informed vote? Tell students to be prepared to explain this to the class.
- Call on a student group and ask a representative to explain what a yes vote means for proposition N and what the benefits would be.
- Call on a different group and ask a representative to explain what a no vote means for proposition N and what the benefits are for not passing the proposition.
- Do this for each of the propositions. Have students keep their personal vote to themselves.
- Instruct students to read over their notes for homework and come to class prepared to vote on the propositions the following day.
- The next day, create an authentic voting setting.
- Have the students vote on the propositions using the provided ballot.
- Tally the votes.
- Make a graph that illustrates how many “yes,” “no,” and “undecided” votes there were for each proposition.
- Discuss what the outcome of the election would mean to the town of Faraway Fields.
- Have students take the propositions and blank ballots home and ask three people who are not part of the class to vote on the propositions. The student should not discuss what has taken place in the classroom with the voters. Graph the public’s results. Compare those results with the class results. If appropriate, explain why the results are different (knowledge of subject matter, how informed people are on the issues, and how concerned they are about the issues). Discuss how the outcome of the public’s vote would affect the city of Faraway Fields.
After comparing class and public voting results, discuss the following issues as a class.
Did each student think about these issues before voting? How about the “public,” did they think about these issues before casting their votes?
Who will pay for the cost of the repairs to septic tanks that will cost approximately $2,500? What will happen if the bill can’t be paid? Is it known for certain that the problem is being caused by septic tanks or could it be related to nutrients running off lawns or the local golf course?
What are some different types of fertilizers? Are fertilizers toxic? How do you know? Does it depend on how they are produced, transported, or applied? Will employment opportunities benefit the community?
What about liquid and gaseous fertilizers? Will this affect the homeowners who buy lawn fertilizers? Will this cause people to buy smaller quantities more often to avoid the fees? Fertilizers come in different forms such as liquid or granular and the purchase of 10 lbs. of fertilizer is common when homeowners purchase lawn and garden fertilizers.
How will plants get their nutrients if all fertilizers are banned? Aren’t manures and composts fertilizers that also contain nitrogen? The proposition is unreasonable due to the fact that nutrients will eventually be depleted if crops continue to be planted and harvested without replacing soil nutrients with any type of amendment.
Is protective gear really necessary when spreading manures and composts? This proposition applies to all fertilizer, including manure and compost. Who will pay for the extra cost to enforce this law? Applicators should follow safety guidelines on each individual fertilizer and take the appropriate measures for safe handling and application. This may vary for different fertilizers.
People vote certain ways on issues for a variety of reasons. It is important for the students to realize that the more informed they are about political issues, the better off their community will be.
Through the class discussion, students should understand that there are many questions to be explored about all of these issues and that campaign and voting material does not always include the information needed to make an informed decision.
After conducting these activities, review and summarize the following key concepts:
- The use of natural resources such as land and water by various groups has benefits and drawbacks.
- It is important to be good stewards of our natural resources.
- Natural resources such as water and land are necessary for the production of our food supply.
This lesson was updated in 2013 with funding from California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom and a grant from the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Fertilizer Research and Education Program. The Fertilizer Research and Education Program (FREP) funds and facilitates research to advance the environmentally safe and agronomically sound use and handling of fertilizer materials. FREP serves growers, agricultural supply and service professionals, extension personnel, public agencies, consultants, and other interested parties. FREP is a part of the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), Division of Inspections Services.
Editor: Shaney Emerson
Executive Director: Judy Culbertson
Illustrator: Toni Smith
Layout and Design: Nina Danner
Copy Editor: Leah Rosasco
California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom
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