For the Teacher

Lesson Overview

Estimated Time

This activity should take a total of 60 minutes for your students to complete.  You can separate the activity into two 30-minute segments, or choose one of the two regions for a shorter experience. Your students will be able to freely obtain all tools necessary to complete the entire investigation independently should you so choose for them to complete this on their own for homework.


  • Photocopy one copy of student answer sheet for each student to hand in or turn in digitally.
  • Have the students use the interactive pdf and email you their answers on the pdf
  • Computer with internet connection
  • ArcGIS Explorer Online requires the Silverlight 4 platform from Microsoft, and a browser which supports the Silverlight plug-in, for example current versions of Microsoft Internet Explorer or Google Chrome on Microsoft Windows, or Safari on Macintosh OS. You do not have to install any Esri software on your computer, because the application runs within the existing web browser.
  • Understanding the Changing Planet online website—Module 5: Food
  • Unfiltered access to ArcGIS Explorer online (Free online mapping application that needs Silverlight plugin:

    Student Answer Sheet


The student will be able to:

  • Use maps to interpret and analyze data
  • Analyze patterns of sustainable or non-sustainable agricultural practices

Teacher Notes

Lesson Introduction

Have students watch the YouTube videos “EAT - STA Travel Australia” and “Hungry Planet” then read the “How will we sustainably feed in the coming decade and beyond?” paragraph to provide them with some background knowledge of urban population growth and U.N. projections of growth over the next forty years. 

“The global population will likely peak at 8 billion to 12 billion in the latter half of this century, up from 6.7 billion in 2008 (Population Reference Bureau, 2008). When global food (and related resource) consumption will crest is unknown, because the quantity of food energy consumed globally and the amount of fossil fuel energy, water, land, and soil resources used to produce these kilocalories is only partially related to the size of the global population (Imhoff et al., 2004b). The critical challenge of sustainable food production and distribution not only depends on knowing how many people live where and how fast populations are growing, but also on the quantities and types of food consumed, the cost of food, and access to food (Bayliss-Smith, 1982; Meyer and Turner, 1992). In general, as incomes rise, people consume more meat and processed foods, demand fruits and vegetables with fewer blemishes, want fresh produce in all seasons, and import foodstuffs from increasingly distant locations (e.g., Leppman, 2005). These changing food consumption preferences are straining global food production and distribution systems, leading to growing concern that these systems will not be adequate to sustainably meet rising food demands in the coming decade (e.g., Tilman et al., 2002; von Braun, 2007).” (UCP, 59)

Ask students to think about what type of food they and their family eat? How does what and how much food they eat compare to the families in the video? They can write their answers on their Student Answer Sheet (on paper or digitally).

          Student Answer Sheet KEY

Instruct students that they will be investigating two regions in Latin America where they are implementing new types of agricultural practices in the past thirty to forty years.  Tell them to continue filling out their answer sheets with their thoughts and conclusions and that they will be “collected” at the conclusion of the exercise. If you would like to minimize class time for this activity, you can assign it for homework where the students can review the interactive maps and image pairs to help them to answer the questions.

Geographic Investigation



Credits and References

  • All data and maps in this lesson are to be used for educational purposes only. It is not to be used for research purposes.

    Landsat Imagery
    Bolivia Soy Production Deforestation Image

    NASA Earth Observatory - Image courtesy NASA/GSFC/MITI/ERSDAC/JAROS, and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team,
    Honduras Shrimp Production Aquaculture Image

    NASA Earth Observatory - NASA image created by Jesse Allen, Earth Observatory, using data obtained courtesy of the University of Maryland’s Global Land Cover Facility:

    Authors: B. Duke, A. Palmer & R. Palmer

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