Field to Fork Winter 2016 Feature Article



A big question can help guide your next inquiry while helping you to meet curriculum objectives.

Imagine how engaged students would be in their learning if they thought about the topic you were teaching every time they ate or visited a grocery store.

You’ve likely been part of exciting brainstorming sessions with your colleagues on big questions and tasks that meet your curriculum objectives while allowing your students to explore big concepts that are relevant to their lives.Alberta Barley

Agriculture is a topic that connects to every student’s life and is something they will engage in several times each day. And it can connect in a meaningful way to most subjects, whether in grade one or grade twelve.

Consider big questions such as:

  • Where does food come from?
  • What new technologies are being used on farms?
  • How does large-scale food production contribute to our way of life?
  • How does weather affect farmers and ranchers?
  • How can we grow more food to feed the world on a lower environmental footprint?
  • What is the relationship between farms and wetlands?
  • What role do geneticists play in agriculture?
  • How do Alberta’s ecological zones impact farmer’s decisions?


Some questions will, of course, lend themselves to different age groups and curriculums better than others, but all of these questions are accessible by diverse students while meeting specific curriculum outcomes depending on the tasks and activities you set for students to explore the bigger question through.

An inquiry based on one of these, or similar, big questions will engage students across many subjects. If you are teaching grade four, for example, the question of growing more food to feed the world while lowering environmental impact can clearly connect to many specific outcomes in the Waste and Our World and Plant Growth and Change units, but to really tackle the question you’ll need to bring in the data analysis and number concept units in math, a look at current events, Alberta geography, and history in social studies, and creative writing, speaking, and listening skills in language arts.

All the while, students will engage with this sort of topic independently of the classroom.

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