The Effects of Climate Change on Agricultural Systems - 5-Hour Curriculum Unit for 6-12 Grade Students

Welcome!  Thank you for your interest in the USDA Southwest Climate Hub’s curriculum unit, The Effects of Climate Change on Agricultural Systems.  As the climate changes, increased temperatures and extreme events are predicted in the southwestern United States, which could impact crop productivity and food security. We partnered with the Asombro Institute for Science Education to design an engaging, fun, and scientifically rigorous education unit aligned with Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards.  This unit is freely available and intended for use by anyone, especially educators of 6-12 grade students.  The unit consists of five activities and was designed to be conducted over five days (or five hours).  Each activity can also stand alone however, and the unit need not be completed in its entirety.


The curriculum is free to download.  We only ask that you create a quick and free  account to supply us with some basic information for our internal tracking purposes.  We will not share your information or send high-frequency emails.


Interested in learning more about teaching these activities?  Please help us organize an educator workshop in your area!  Email for more information about this opportunity.


Day 1 - Farms on the Table: Making Farmland Decisions in a Changing Climate To learn about challenges associated with agricultural production under climate change conditions, students play a game in which they make management decisions for a farm and evaluate the effects.


Day 2 - Interacting Adaptations: Trade-Offs in the Agriculture Industry Students conduct research on agricultural adaptations to climate change, create posters, and carry out a gallery walk to analyze the interconnectedness of adaptations.


Day 3 - Wilt it be Productive? Modeling an Adaptation to Climate Change To evaluate an agricultural adaptation to climate change, students conduct an experiment to test the effectiveness of a model shade structure in reducing transpiration from spinach leaves under lights.


Day 4 - Washed Away: Climate Change and Farmland Soil Quality Students see a demonstration of the erosion of topsoil on a farm by an extreme precipitation event and then use a soil nutrient test kit to conduct an experiment to analyze and compare the nutrients of the topsoil and lower layer.  Students also use SoilWeb, a web-based tool, to investigate soil characteristics of agricultural land in three areas and at their own location.


Day 5 - Get Out and Graze (GO AG!): Criollo vs. Angus Cattle in a Changing Climate Students learn about heritage livestock as they play the roles of Angus and Raramuri Criollo cattle grazing on a rangeland under abundant and then limited forage conditions caused by climate change.