Lesson 6: How can you design a method for monitoring and minimizing climate change in your farm/garden?

(Project-based lesson, could extend to several class periods if time allows. Project ideas below)

NGSS Alignment:

  • MS-ESS3D: Global Climate Change

  • Science and Engineering Practices: Designing Solutions

Teacher Guide:

  • Research, prep, and plan for any anticipated projects of student interest based on discussion in previous lessons.

  • Invite in local guests from community to participate in brainstorming, planning, and/or implementation with student groups in this lesson, provide consulting on project ideas and implementation.

  • Notify and bring in other teachers at the school who might be interested in collaborating on school-wide climate adaptation/mitigation projects.

Project ideas:

  • Create a Climate Resilience Plan for the garden for the years 2018-2050. Think about the predicted changes for this region (from the National Climate Assessment), and create both a visual plan/map and written description of things the school should either start doing or continue doing to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Ideas include planting decisions/timing, crop varieties and species diversity, soil amendments, water management/irrigation strategies, trees, animals, energy generation and sources on the farm… etc! See Multinational Exchange for Sustainable Agriculture (MESA) for Climate Resilient Farm planning resources or NRDC's climate resilient farm resources for ideas. 

  • Composting in your school cafeteria- collect, store over time, and apply to school garden. See Green Mountain Farm to School manual pages 21-25 (and Appendix VI) for sample instructions on starting a school compost program; feel free to modify/simplify as much as needed for your school! 

  • Mini school greenhouse- grow local food year-round with a small greenhouse structure to grow herbs or start seeds in winter that can be planted in spring. Even a plastic salad container can be used as a “prototype,” with small yogurt containers placed inside in rows to start seeds with the additional warmth of the (*recycled*) plastic. Designate one classroom (school garden classroom) or outdoor space for mini greenhouse operation. Example 1 and 2

  • Clean energy generation – solar panels on farm/garden structures to provide both strategic shading and energy generation for irrigation- example from Patton Middle School in PA. 

  • Implement rainwater catchment system (California example- Hoover Elementary School in Oakland). Blue Barrel systems for schools offers installation workshops. San Diego Unified School District example

  • Soil carbon sequestration project- create an experimental plot in the garden to manage using best management practices (composting, cover crops in winter, crop diversity, etc). Set up a team or committee to do annual soil tests, using kits such as this to measure/quantify the impact locally and if applied to all state, global agricultural land. **Can also use water holding capacity tests as a proxy for soil carbon presence! 

  • Plan for minimizing food miles travelled (and therefore lower CO2 emissions); Start an initiative at school to promote food from local farms, or from school garden directly- School Harvest of the Month program. Other examples of climate-friendly school food initiatives can be found in this recent report by Friends of the Earth.  

  • Buy local pledge-- Take commitments from other students and community members to eat only local food for a month!

  • Business plan- making a local food business out of your school garden- food truck, mobile food pantry, farm stand, etc. Example of food truck social justice non-profit in NYC and youth-run urban farm in Oakland

  • Farming career pathways—set up internships or work study with local farmers

  • Climate justice project- analyze the intergenerational or racial/class inequities associated with rising temperatures and healthy food access/availability. What actions or changes can be made within your community to make these groups more resilient or impacts less severe? Reach out to ACE (Alliance for Climate Education) to connect with other youth working on climate justice across the country. 

  • List of local organizations working on food and food justice, organize volunteer day for the class at one of these locations.  

  • Write a letter to a local politician advocating for a climate-friendly agriculture policy you think should be adopted at the state or local level

  • Local news article or blog on food and climate topic

  • Organize a “Dine for Climate” event at the Farm School, with food items that are particularly beneficial to climate resilient farm landscapes and include a fundraising or educational component. Read about a Minnesota climate education non-profit's example here