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Top Crop: Farming for the Future

Middle, Secondary

Description

Top Crop is an interactive, online game based on the scenario that the students have been asked to help agricultural leaders figure out the best way to provide more healthy food for a growing human population using sustainable agriculture techniques. Players compete to see who can create the most sustainable farm, one that produces high yields while at the same time protecting the environment. Through a series of virtual growing seasons, they experience the challenges farmers face such as pests, disease and weather. Students must take on the role of farmer-scientist to collect and analyze information on what techniques and technologies are available. At the end of each growing season (or round) points are awarded based on the decisions they made.

The accompanying Educator’s Guide provides extensive subject matter background, learning objectives, teaching and discussion ideas, additional activities and links to supplementary information for students.

 

General Assessment

Strengths

  • The simulation addresses a number of sustainability issues connected to modern agriculture including food security, biodiversity, ecosystem integrity, human population growth and climate change.
  • The simulation does a very good job presenting sustainable agriculture in an STSE context.
  • The Educator Guide provides excellent support for teaching about sustainable agriculture and facilitating the game.
  • The online experience will appeal to many learners.
  • The resource can be used in both in class and at home settings.

Recommendation of how and where to use it

The game will require some trial and error in the beginning and teachers should be very familiar with its operation and prepared to help students navigate the simulation.  Students should have a solid understanding of the vocabulary and content provided in the educator’s guide prior to launching the game.

This resource will appeal to teachers looking for engaging activities to support teaching units addressing human impact on the environment.

Relevant Curriculum Units

The following tool will allow you to explore the relevant curriculum matches for this resource. To start, select a province listed below.

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  • Alberta
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    • Grade 6
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      • Science
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        • Students investigate climate and describe the interactions between the Sun, water, air, and land.
    • Grade 7
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      • Science
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        • Interactions and Ecosystems
    • Grade 9
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      • Science
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        • Biological Diversity
        • Knowledge and Employability Science: Biological Diversity (Social and Environmental Contexts Emphasis)
  • British Columbia
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    • Grade 9
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        • Science 9: The biosphere, geosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere are interconnected, as matter cycles and energy flows through them.
  • Manitoba
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        • Interactions Within Ecosystems
  • New Brunswick
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    • Grade 7
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      • Science
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        • Science 7 Earth Surface Processes:Learning and Living Sustainably (STSE)
    • Grade 9
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        • Science 9 Ecosystem Dynamics: Learning and Living Sustainably (STSE)
  • Newfoundland & Labrador
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        • Interaction of Ecosystems
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        • Interactions and Ecosystems
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        • Biological Diversity
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        • Science 6: Diversity of Life
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        • Life Science: Interactions Within Ecosystem
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        • Interactions and Ecosystems
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        • Biological Diversity
        • Knowledge and Employability Science: Biological Diversity (Social and Environmental Contexts Emphasis)
  • Ontario
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    • Grade 6
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      • Geography
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        • Natural Resources around the World: Use and Sustainability
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        • Interactions in the Environment
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      • Geography
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        • Issues in Canadian Geography (Academic): Geographic Inquiry and Skill Development
        • Issues in Canadian Geography (Applied): Geographic Inquiry and Skill Development
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        • Science (Academic):Biology: Sustainable Ecosystems
        • Science (Applied): Biology: Sustainable Ecosystems and Human Activity
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        • Diversity of Life
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        • Interactions Within Ecosystems
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        • Science 9: Content Knowledge
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  • Saskatchewan
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        • Science 6: Life Science: Diversity of Living Things
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      • Science
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        • Science 7: Life Science: Interactions within Ecosystems
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    • Grade 9
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      • Science
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        • Science 9: The biosphere, geosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere are interconnected, as matter cycles and energy flows through them.

Themes Addressed

  • Air, Atmosphere & Climate (1)

    • Climate Change
  • Ecosystems (1)

    • Biodiversity
  • Food & Agriculture (3)

    • Biotechnology
    • Conventional Farming
    • Pesticides
  • Science and Technology (1)

    • Appropriate Technology

Sustainability Education Principles

Principle Rating Explanation
Consideration of Alternative Perspectives Very Good

Students are provided with a comprehensive amount of reliable information.

Consideration of Alternative Perspectives:
  • Satisfactory: absence of bias towards any one point of view
  • Good: students consider different points of view regarding issues, problems discussed
  • Very good: based on the consideration of different views, students form opinions and  take an informed position
Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions Very Good

The focus of the lesson is sustainable agriculture. The goal of the simulation is to farm sustainably.  To do so the students must balance increase yields with protecting the environment.

Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions:

Effectively addresses the environmental, economic and social dimensions of the issue(s) being explored.

  • Satisfactory: resource supports the examination of  these dimensions
  • Good:  resource explicitly examines the interplay of these dimensions
  • Very Good:  a systems-thinking approach is encouraged to examine these three dimensions
Respects Complexity Good

The background provided in the educator's resource is comprehensive and reflects the complexity of the issues.  The extent of the challenge to grow enough food to feed 9.7 billion people by 2050 without doing significant damage to the planet is made clear.

Respects Complexity:

The complexity of the problems/issues being discussed is respected.

Acting on Learning Poor/Not considered

Action projects are not included in this resource.

Acting on Learning:

Learning moves from understanding  issues  to working towards positive change — in personal lifestyle, in school, in the community,  or for the planet

  • Satisfactory: action opportunities are included as extensions 
  • Good: action opportunities are core components of the resource
  • Very Good: action opportunities for students are well supported and intended to result in observable, positive change
Values Education Satisfactory

During and after the game, students are expected to reflect on the decisions they made.

Values Education:

Students are explicitly provided with opportunities to identify, clarify and express their own beliefs/values.

Empathy & Respect for Humans Poor/Not considered
Empathy & Respect for Humans: Empathy and respect are fostered for diverse groups of humans (including different genders, ethnic groups, sexual preferences, etc.).
Personal Affinity with Earth Good

Students are made well aware of the connection between agriculture and the environment.  Students must consider the environmental damage that can result from the farming decisions they are considering. 

Personal Affinity with Earth:

Encourages a personal affinity with -the natural world.  

  • Satisfactory: connection is made to the natural world
  • Good: fosters appreciation/concern for the natural world
  • Very Good: fosters stewardship though practical and respectful experiences out-of-doors 
Locally-Focused Learning Satisfactory

The experiential nature of the simulation connects students to the issue.  While the lesson presents in a global context (feeding the growing global population) there are suggestions for connecting to local farming and food security issues in discussions before and after students play the game.

Locally-Focused Learning:

Includes learning experiences that take advantage of issues/elements within the local community. 

  • Satisfactory: learning is made relevant to the lives of the learners
  • Good: learning is made relevant and has a local focus
  • Very Good: learning is made relevant, local and takes place ‘outside’ , in the community 
Past, Present & Future Good

The resource presents a very thorough examination of modern agriculture.  Attention is also given to the past and present role played by technology and what we can expect in the future.

Past, Present & Future: Promotes an understanding of the past, a sense of the present, and a positive vision for the future.

Pedagogical Approaches

Principle Rating Explanation
Open-Ended Instruction Good

There is no attempt to hide the environmental impact of modern agriculture.  The simulation requires students deal with the reality that growing more food while protecting the environment is extremely complex and challenging.

Open-Ended Instruction :

Lessons are structured so that multiple/complex answers are possible; students are not steered toward one 'right' answer.

Integrated Learning Satisfactory

Top Crop addresses outcomes in Science, Technology and Geography.

Integrated Learning:

Learning brings together content and skills  from more than one  subject area

  • Satisfactory: content from a number of different  subject areas is readily identifiable
  • Good:  resource is appropriate for use in more than one subject area
  • Very Good:  the lines between subjects are blurred 
Inquiry Learning Good

In this simulation, students are presented with a challenge and provided with access to information and tools to address it.  Success will depend on the decisions they make.

Inquiry Learning:

Learning is directed by questions, problems, or challenges that students work to address.   

  • Satisfactory: Students are provided with questions/problems to solve and some direction on how to arrive at solutions.
  • Good: students, assisted by the teacher clarify the question(s) to ask and the process to follow to arrive at solutions.  Sometimes referred to as Guided Inquiry
  • Very Good:  students generate the questions and assume much of the responsibility for how to solve them.  . Sometimes referred to as self-directed learning.

 

Differentiated Instruction Satisfactory

Following the suggestions in the Educator's Guide will yield a range of instructional approaches to address different learning styles.

Differentiated Instruction:

Activities address a range of student learning styles, abilities and readiness.

  • Satisfactory:  includes a variety of instructional approaches
  • Good: addresses  the needs of visual, auditory &  kinesthetic learners
  • Very Good: also includes strategies for learners with difficulties
Experiential Learning Satisfactory

Top Crop is an online simulation in which students take on the role of farmer-scientists.

Experiential Learning:

Authentic learning experiences are provided

  • Satisfactory: learning takes place through ‘hands-on’ experience or simulation
  • Good: learning involves direct experience in a ‘real world context’
  • Very good: learning involves ‘real world experiences’ taking place’ beyond the school walls.
Cooperative Learning Poor/Not considered

Group learning strategies are not emphasized in this resource.

Cooperative Learning:

Group and cooperative learning strategies are a priority.

  • Satisfactory:  students work in groups
  • Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught and practiced
  • Very Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught, practiced and assessed
Assessment & Evaluation Poor/Not considered

Ideas for post game debriefing are provided but the resource does not offer assessment suggestions or tools. 

Assessment & Evaluation: Tools are provided that help students and teachers to capture formative and summative information about students' learning and performance. These tools may include reflection questions, checklists, rubrics, etc.
Peer Teaching Satisfactory

Opportunities for peer teaching exist in some of the post game activities.

Peer Teaching:

Provides opportunities for students to actively present their knowledge and skills to peers and/or act as teachers and mentors.

  • Satisfactory: incidental teaching that arises from cooperative learning, presentations, etc.
  • Good or Very Good: an opportunity is intentionally created to empower students to teach other students/community members. The audience is somehow reliant on the students' teaching (students are not simply ‘presenting')
Case Studies Satisfactory

Several case studies have been included in the background information.

Case Studies:

Relevant case studies are included.  Case studies are thorough descriptions of real events from real situations that students use to explore  concepts in an authentic context.

Locus of Control Satisfactory

Within the simulation itself, students make all of the decisions on how to apply the data and information provided.

Locus of Control: Meaningful opportunities are provided for students to choose elements of program content, the medium in which they wish to work, and/or to go deeper into a chosen issue.