Food and Energy
Science education that supports the development of students’ cognitive abilities that are needed to adapt and survive within the dynamic stability of a hotter and drier planet.
Food and energy are two of the most important fundamental influences upon our modern industrialized society. The impact they have upon the well-being of civilization, as we know it, will be profound in this 21st century.
Learning environments need to reflect the relevance (value) and the exciting opportunities (choices and control) that these challenges present in our modern world. Our modern educational system has a duty to our children to deliver learning experiences that match these critical issues that we all face as inhabitants on a changing planet.
Thomas Friedman wrote from his newest book titled, Thank you for being late, “So, at a minimum, our educational systems must be retooled to maximize these needed skills and attributes: strong fundamentals in reading and writing, coding and math; creativity, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration; grit, self-motivation, and lifelong learning habits; and entrepreneurship and improvisation – at every level.”
How do we begin to bring forth this level of learning to prepare our children for the dynamic stability that they will face in their lives? A multidisciplinary approach to learning surmounts these challenges by linking the learning of science to real-world problems and with a mindset that is multidisciplinary in its approach to fashioning solutions. A curriculum emphasis on Food and Energy as a year-long project-based educational initiative would be the ideal learning experience preparing our children for the world that they will now face in their lifetime.
Energy is so completely encompassing it is what everything is made of and it supports the organization of all things living and inert. We teach that energy is “the ability to produce change” and we have a great number of ways to make this change happen once we have the energy, but the fundamental issue is the resulting impact that the use of energy to support human civilization has upon the ecosystem.
Food provides the energy for life. Trillions of soil microbes, insects, worms and organic nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium set the stage for a rich proliferation of plants that blanket and feed our world. Soil can facilitate the sequestration of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, provide a mechanism to efficiently store moisture and to house essential nutrient resources to facilitate the synthesis of sugars, carbohydrates and proteins, which are the building blocks of all things living in this world.
Complexity is the key word that clearly describes the reliance humankind has upon the capacity of our soils to produce food and our reliance upon abundant amounts of energy to “produce change” within a time dependent growing season. Students need to be aware of and to think critically about the mounting complexities that we now face in a world of over 7 billion souls demanding access to increasing amounts of energy and dealing with climate changes that are altering and suppressing environmental factors that support plant growth. Students need to have some exposure, through learning experiences at school, to the ebb and flow of these complexities that are life-giving to humankind.
Physics, chemistry and biology are the unforgiving players in the climate change experience our planet now faces. We will all " rue the day" when their laws, rules and defined outcomes play mercilessly upon our environment. Students can gain valuable insight into the effects of climate change and these laws of science if they can think creatively about the science involved. They need to have the abilities to "play with their thoughts", their questions, proposed solutions and their “what ifs..”
Science education in the 21st century can provide the bridge for our children into this new world of “what ifs..”