Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix
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Can We Have Too Much of a Good Thing?
6 - 8
One 50 Minute Class, Five 15-Minute Observations, One 50-Minute Class for analyzing results
In this lesson students will understand that plants require nutrients in the proper concentrations. Students will discover that plants can be damaged or killed by either too many or too few nutrients.
For the teacher:
- Six, 6 packs of one type of vegetable or flower seedling from a nursery
- Sand or perlite for potting seedlings
- Plastic or wax lined paper cups with a hold in the bottom for planting seedlings
- Liquid fertilizer
- Distilled water
- Jars of beakers that can hold 300 ml of liquid
- 500 ml graduated cylinder or other measuring device
- Wax marking pencil or masking tape
For each student:
- Copies of the student lab handout
For each group of four students:
- Four seedlings potted in sand (per group of 4 students)
- Prepared fertilizer concentrations (per group of 4 students)
- Grow or fluorescent light for plant area (optional) or a sunny area for plant growth
Essential Files (maps, charts, pictures, or documents)
essential element: a chemical element required by an organism for healthy growth
micronutrient: a substance required in relatively small amounts
macronutrient: a substance required in relatively large amounts
fertilizer: material of natural or synthetic origin that is applied to soils or plants to supply one or more nutrients essential for plant growth
Background Agricultural Connections
Interest Approach – Engagement
- Ask the students how their body obtains energy to live and be healthy? Guide the students to the answer that they consume food for energy.
- Next ask students if they can have too much food and what the effects would be?
- Ask students if plants need energy to live and be healthy? How do plants obtain "food?"
- Explain that in this lesson they will be learning about the nutrients that plants require and how to provide the correct balance.
It may be helpful to try this experiment ahead of time, especially preparing the solutions and determining how far away the light source should be for optimal outcome. Consider how often, and with how much, the plants will need to be watered in the classroom environment. Evaluate how much your students can participate in set-up.
- Designate a well-lit area of the classroom for the plants. An optional grow light or a fluorescent fixture can improve results. Place sand or perlite in cups and plant one seedling in each cup.
- Prepare the fertilizer mixtures ahead of time for each student group. a. Label sets of four jars or beakers for each group with a wax marking pencil or piece of tape at the 300 ml mark. Label one container in each set with the fertilizer concentrations: 0%, 0.5%, 1%, and 2%. Use the following directions to prepare the concentrations of fertilizers:
- 0% solution: Fill jars or beakers, labeled 0%, with distilled water. No fertilizer is to be added to these jars.
- 0.5% solution: Put 1.5 ml liquid plant fertilizer in a 500 ml graduated cylinder and add distilled water to the 300 ml mark. Do this for each of the jars or beakers labeled 0.5%.
- 1% solution: Put 3 ml liquid plant fertilizer in a 500 ml graduated cylinder and add distilled water to the 300 ml mark. Do this for each of the jars or beakers labeled 1%.
- 2% solution: Put 6 ml liquid plant fertilizer in a 500 ml graduated cylinder and add distilled water to the 300 ml mark. Do this for each of the jars or beakers labeled 2%.
- When time permits, make a reserve stock of each of the same solutions to use during the experiment to replenish the solutions. Keep the solution jars covered and away from heat and possible contamination.
- Divide the students into groups of four. Each group will carry out the experiment using the scientific method. At the completion of the experiment each individual student will write a lab report.
- Review the Scientific Method and the components of a properly written lab report with the students. Give students a reference for lab report expectations by providing examples that range from high to low quality.
- Guide the students in the proper set up of their experiment. Check each student’s hypothesis prior to beginning the lab experiment. Monitor their process and reinforce the concept of having only one variable. Have the student’s take detailed notes and use them to write their final reports. They should include their notes as an attachment to the final report.
- Complete the following activity with your students. Give as much or as little instruction as appropriate for the class. You can give your students detailed instructions or this experiment can be done as a Design-Your-Own-Experiment.
- Discuss the results of the experiment as a class. What did your students learn about fertilizers? What are some examples of fertilizers? Why are fertilizers important to farmers? Why are they important to the students? What should a farmer or home gardener know before applying fertilizers?
Concept Elaboration and Evaluation:
After conducting these activities, review and summarize the following key concepts:
- Plants are an important element in our food supply. Plants grow in soil and require specific levels of nutrients for healthy growth.
- Fertilizer can be used to supplement needed nutrients, however, it must be applied at the proper time, place, and rate.
- Over or under fertilizing can have negative impacts.
- Do the experiment as a class with just one set of plants.
- Have each group produce one lab report and put it on a poster board for display.
- Have the students follow directions to mix the various fertilizer solutions for their own group.
- Grow plants from seeds as a class project.
- Employ group work and cooperative learning. These activities provide opportunities for students to exchange, write, and present ideas. Students use a variety of skills that work together to increase understanding and retention.
We welcome your feedback! Please take a minute to tell us how to make this lesson better or to give us a few gold stars!
Set up two class experiments: one on how fertilizer in various concentrations affects the germination of seeds, and one on how the fertilizer dosage affects the growth of seedlings. This can also be done in student groups.
Suggested Companion Resources
- Troubled Waters (Activity)
- Feeding the World and Protecting the Environment (Multimedia)
- Phosphate Mining Video (Multimedia)
- Potash Mining Video (Multimedia)
- Soil Science Videos (Multimedia)
- Your Day With NPK Online Game (Multimedia)
- Dig In: Hands-On Soil Investigations (Teacher Reference)
- From the Ground Up: The Science of Soil (Website)
- How a New Evolutionary Map Could Help Farmers Eliminate Fertilizer (Website)
- Nitrogen & Agriculture (Website)
Agricultural Literacy Outcomes
Agriculture and the Environment
- Describe benefits and challenges of using conservation practices for natural resources (e.g., soil, water, and forests), in agricultural systems which impact water, air, and soil quality (T1.6-8.b)
- Discover how natural resources are used and conserved in agriculture (e.g., soil conservation, water conservation, water quality, and air quality) (T1.6-8.c)
- Discuss (from multiple perspectives) land and water use by various groups (i.e., ranchers, farmers, hunters, miners, recreational users, government, etc.), and how each use carries a specific set of benefits and consequences that affect people and the environment (T1.6-8.d)
Education Content Standards
Plant Science Systems Career Pathway
PS.01.02Prepare and manage growing media for use in plant systems.
PS.01.03Develop and implement a fertilization plan for specific plants or crops.
MS-LS2 Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
MS-LS2-1Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for the effects of resource availability on organisms and populations of organisms in an ecosystem.
MS-LS2-2Construct an explanation that predicts patterns of interactions among organisms across multiple ecosystems.
MS-LS4 Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity
MS-LS4-4Construct an explanation based on evidence that describes how genetic variations of traits in a population increase some individuals’ probability of surviving and reproducing in a specific environment.
Common Core Connections
Reading: Anchor Standards
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.7Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.
Speaking and Listening: Anchor Standards
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.1Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.2Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
Language: Anchor Standards
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.1Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
Writing: Anchor Standards
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.2Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
Mathematics: Practice Standards
CCSS.MATH.PRACTICE.MP4Model with mathematics. Students can apply the mathematics they know to solve problems arising in everyday life, society, and the workplace. Students who can apply what they know are comfortable making assumptions and approximations to simplify a complicated situation, realizing that these may need revision later. They are able to identify important quantities in a practical situation and map their relationships using such tools as diagrams, two-way tables, graphs, flowcharts and formulas. They can analyze those relationships mathematically to draw conclusions.