Sustainable Ag Curriculum


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Sustainable agriculture curriculum materials

Posted March 1992

As one of its first projects, in 1989 and 1990, CIAS collaborated with the Wisconsin Rural Development Center and the Department of Public Instruction to produce a high-school teacher’s guide to sustainable agriculture. This guide and its supplement continue to be recognized as valuable resources for teachers who want to learn more about sustainable agriculture and teach their students key concepts, thinking skills, and hands-on skills.

CIAS has updated this curriculum. It is available free of charge on this web site: For more information about the original curriculum, read on.

Toward a Sustainable Agriculture: A Teacher’s Guide

This 152-page guide includes six teacher reference guide sections outlining the scope of sustainable agriculture, an instructional unit summarizing key concepts, and 21 learning activities. It was prepared by a task force of farmers, researchers, activists, extension staff, continuing and vocational education specialists, agriculture educators, and others. The first draft was field tested and reviewed by more than 100 Wisconsin agriculture education instructors.

Reference guide sections are:

  • Introduction to sustainable agriculture
  • Sustainable cropping and livestock systems
  • The economics of sustainable agriculture
  • Alternative agricultural enterprises: new ways to sustainability
  • Public policy issues in sustainable agriculture
  • Ethics and agriculture: can agriculture be good?

Learning activities cover:

  • Composting
  • Nitrate leaching
  • Role-playing a congressional debate over pesticide policy
  • Alternative marketing and marketing of alternative products
  • Sustainable agriculture on-farm research and demonstrations
  • Weed management lab
  • IPM lab
  • Plant disease
  • Career compounds
  • Mapping mania
  • Assembly and adjustment of front-mount row crop cultivator
  • Ridge tillage lab
  • Enterprise selection
  • Conservation tillage
  • Pesticide and groundwater protection lab
  • Economic impact of sustainable agriculture
  • Policies affecting farm sustainability/profitability
  • Career opportunities in sustainable agriculture
  • Community survey
  • Sustainable agriculture businesses
  • Ethical issues in agriculture

Resources for Teaching Sustainable Agriculture

This supplemental guide is included free with the teachers guide. It covers a variety of recommended and additional resources for teaching sustainable agriculture.

Published in 1991 (with a second printing in 1992), Toward a Sustainable Agriculture remains a valuable resource. It was chosen by National Geographic as the basis for its December, 1995, Geoguide publication, a lesson plan provided free of charge to its 26,000-member geography teachers’ network in conjunction with the magazine’s November, 1995, article on sustainable agriculture.

Lessons for Teaching Sustainable Agriculture

The Wisconsin Rural Development Center and Wisconsin Environmental Education Board formed a partnership to develop a collection of lesson plans that teach sustainable agriculture from an interdisciplinary perspective.

Lessons include:

  • Reduced chemical weed control (three activities)
  • Non-chemical pest control (two activities)
  • Introduction to economics (three activities)
  • Production of crops as energy sources (three activities)
  • Environmentally sound alternative crops (four activities)
  • Appendices include handouts and other materials of use to the busy high school classroom teacher.

The updated curriculum is available free of charge on this web site: