Biology and Sustainable Agriculture Model

by CTE Online Admin

This course integrates biological science practices and knowledge into the practice of sustainable agriculture. Unit one addresses the question, What is sustainable agriculture? Unit two, How does sustainable agriculture fit into our environment? Unit three, What molecular biology principles guide sustainable agriculture? Unit four, How do we make decisions to maximize sustainable agricultural practices within a functioning ecosystem? Within each unit, specific life science principles integrate with agricultural principles, as students gain knowledge of how the two disciplines inform each other, culminating in the development of a sustainable farm model and portfolio of supporting student research.

Program Information
CTE Certification Elements
California English Common Core Standards (3)
California's 2013 CTE Standards (31)
Next Generation Science Standards (18)
California's 2008 CTE Standards (2)
California Academic Content Standards (2)
Course Resources

Unit 1: What is Sustainable Agriculture?

This introductory unit will focus on the biological classifications of agriculture and their associated industry sectors, what sustainability is, and how the scientific method is the driving force behind advancements and developments in sustainable biological practices within agriculture. Students develop an overview of agricultural industries and biologic practices through research projects on facets of California agriculture, and identify what sustainability and sustainable practices are through individualized lab experiments relating to current practices. Ultimately, students will be able to use the scientific method to complete an extensive laboratory experiment that is designed to evaluate potential feed source varieties for sustainable success within their local community.

UCCI Key Assignments

  • SAB1.1. “What is sustainable agriculture?" (CTE Online Title: The Science Behind Agriculture - Creating Mini Labs PBL Project) Student groups will design and complete an inquiry based mini-lab experiment to expand on their knowledge of the particular industry sector they researched from the previous activity. Choosing a focus from one of the areas of concern or issues within their sector, students will then design and implement an experiment that tests factors contributing to the issue. The experiments in this project could lead to ideas to being an agriscience fair project.
  • SAB1.2.“That's Ag - The Science Behind Agriculture" – Categorical Based Mini-Labs
  • SAB1.3. Scientific Method and Sustainability Lab – “Work Like a Scientist"

Unit 2: How does sustainable agriculture fit into our environment?

While unit one examined whole systems, unit two takes a closer look at components within that system. Students will use evidence gathered from a series of laboratory exercises to be able to describe the transfer of energy from one trophic level to another as well as the cycling of nutrients and energy through ecosystems. Students will be able to draw conclusions about these biogeochemical cycles and how they apply to sustainability of production agriculture. Specifically, students will conduct primary research in the areas of photosynthesis and chemical energy creation, nutrient cycling, transpiration and water use, ecological relationships and global farming practices in order to draw biologically-sound conclusions regarding the effects of agriculture on the natural environment. The students learning will culminate in a synthesis of concepts applied to the development of a three year sustainable crop rotation plan.

UCCI Key Assignments

  • SAB2.1. “Bacteria at Work" - Nitrogen Fixation
  • SAB2.2. “Morning Jolt!"- Photosynthesis Lab
  • SAB2.3. “Move on Through" - Transpiration Lab
  • SAB2.4. “From Trash to Gas" - Sustainable Waste Management
  • SAB2.5. “Composting, Do the Rot Thing" (CTE Online Title: Do the Rot Thing: Waste Management PBL Project) Problem: How can an agriculturalist regenerate ecosystems as well as return nutrients to the soil to benefit plant growth in a natural way with the interaction of the food and fiber systems in conjunction with natural cycles, while eliminating organic matter? Students will examine the principle of composting organic material, and the process of converting complex organic matter into the basic nutrients needed by living organisms. Product:Students will create an informational report that explains a waste management plan using compost. Included in the report should be information regarding the microbiology of compost production in addition to the practical household application of the research. Additionally, the brochure should outline the removal of organic matter to increase ecological sustainability while having the least environmental impact on the farm and community.

Unit 3: What molecular biology principles guide sustainable agriculture?

In this unit, students will examine the science of agriculture and evaluate the efficiency and sustainability of current methods. Students will explore the concepts of taxonomy of plants and nomenclature of animals, cell structure, cellular division, DNA, and chromosomes. Students will apply this knowledge to evaluate desirable inheritable traits in each species to artificially select characteristics to breed more efficient and productive offspring as a part of their created breeding plan. Students will be introduced to genetic markers, genetically modified organisms, and biotechnology. With this knowledge students will examine and evaluate biotechnology, the ethics of genetic manipulation, and its implication on the sustainability of agriculture and our ability to feed a growing population. As a culminating project for the first two units students will design, conduct, and interpret their own agricultural research project on a biological issue facing agriculture and present their findings with a visual, written, and oral report.

UCCI Key Assignments

  • SAB3.1. “Breed For The Need"- Sustainable Breeding Evaluation (CTE Online Title: Genetics and Agriculture (SAB3.1 c&d) PBL Project) Genetics are an incredibly important aspect of Agriculture. In order to use genetics to our advantage, we must first understand how they are passed from parents to offspring, how they are expressed, and even how the environment can affect them. This project helps students identify the difference between dominant and recessive traits while understanding the possibility of heritance. The project also distinguishes between typical traits, sex linked traits, and environmental effects on traits. Once students have grasped the concept of genetics, they will be asked to use their knowledge to evaluate and select livestock for breeding.
  • SAB3.2. “Where Should I Make My Home ?"- Sustainable Production Plan
  • SAB3.3. “Battle of the Seeds" (CTE Online Title: Battle of the Seeds: Biotechnology Use in Agriculture (SAB3.3) PBL Project) Biotechnology Use in Agriculture Crop decisions made by agricultural producers require an understanding of the climate, rainfall and topography of their area. In these lessons, students will explore the introduction of new plants into predetermined, consistent ecosystems. The students will investigate how germination, growth and efficiency of plants can be affected by genetic and environmental changes.

Unit 4: How do we make decisions to maximize sustainable agricultural practices within a functioning ecosystem?

Students will understand common practices in the agriculture industry that promote sustainability. They will evaluate and/or refine technological solutions that reduce impacts of human activities on natural systems by using practices that utilize cellular biology, genetics, energy cycles, biological systems, plant and animal nomenclature and how these units collectively create ecosystems that were covered in the previous units. Students will conduct production practices in the areas of animal science, horticulture, and natural resources. Students will experience how the biological systems can be changed at the cellular level, promoting the emergence of new energy cycles that produce useful, recyclable products that have a positive impact on the environment, thus decreasing the impact of agriculture on the environment and promoting sustainability. Students will investigate positive sustainable approaches to changing negative impacts agriculture has on the land by testing methods of efficiency in laboratory work. This experience will give students perspective on production costs and resource needs in relation to animal welfare, mechanization versus labor, and use of chemicals to non-use of chemicals. Students will utilize this hands-on production experience to develop their own sustainable farm as a culminating final project to illustrate the management of agricultural systems, management of natural resources , the sustainability of an ecosystem for the future while preserving biodiversity.

UCCI Key Assignments

  • SAB4.1. “Show Me You Care" (CTE Online Title: Yes, We Care! Safe and Humane Livestock Production PBL Project) Practice in Animal Health Management Problem: What are the roles of livestock producers in producing a safe food supply that is produced with humane livestock practices and environmental stewardship? Students will examine the food safety continuum as it pertains to livestock production, biosecurity measures for a productive livestock farm or ranch, become aware of consumer concerns about livestock production and be able to articulate their perspective with their peers and the public. Product: Students will complete their own Food Safety Continuum poster, complete biosecurity surveys, debate livestock production practices and survey consumers to discover their perceptions of livestock production.
  • SAB4.2. “If You Root It, They Will Grow" - Sustainable Practices in Horticulture
  • SAB4.3. “It's Easy Being Green - Growing Green Communities" - Landscaping
  • SAB4.4. “Use Me Responsibly or Lose Me Forever"
  • SAB4.5. Bioprospecting - “Motoring with Microbes"