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Abstract Detail

Teaching Section

Clary, Renee M. [1], Wandersee, James H (deceased) [2].

Corn and Biodiversity: A Case Study.

Corn or maize, Zea mays L., is a tall, robust, monoecious annual plant, with overlapping sheaths and broad, conspicuously distichous blades. (Hitchcock & Chase, 1951). Domestication of maize began about 10,000 years ago through selective breeding of the variations of teosinte, the wild ancestor of modern corn. Through the years, both human selection and natural environmental pressures resulted in a variety of maize types. In the US, however, there are only a selected few varieties under cultivation, specifically field corn, sweet corn, and popcorn. Therefore, corn makes an effective classroom portal through which to address biodiversity and human impact—both our impact on biodiversity through monoculture corn production, and impact that a corn monoculture has on humans (Clary & Wandersee, 2013).
Our research involved students at the US middle school and high school levels. As an introduction to the corn case study, we required students to locate 5 packaged food items at home, and list the ingredients. During classroom list assimilation and investigation (Sherman 2012), students discovered that many of the ingredients in common food items derived from corn. Next, video clips from the feature film King Corn (2007) were utilized to illustrate the US food system. Students used these clips’ content, and other online resources, to graphically summarize the effect of corn’s dominance on our daily lives through concept maps (Novak et al, 1998, 2000) and Venn diagrams. As an extended investigation, students conducted biodiversity surveys in the local environment, recording the types of plants and animals in both natural and disturbed areas. For a culminating activity, students argued the advantages and disadvantages of US agricultural practices in persuasive essays.
Biodiversity is an important concept for science classrooms because it enforces our human interrelatedness with the environment and the human impact on our ecosystem. The corn case study effectively addresses Next Generation Science Standards crosscutting concepts of cause and effect, as well as important disciplinary core ideas in both Life Sciences, and Earth and Space Sciences.

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1 - Mississippi State University, Geosciences, P.O. Box 1705, Mississippi State, MS, 39762, USA
2 - Louisiana State University, Educational Theory, Policy, and Practice, Baton Rouge, LA, 70810, USA

botany education
concept map
corn or maize
human constructivist theory.

Presentation Type: Oral Paper:Papers for Sections
Session: 19
Location: Cottonwoods North/Boise Centre
Date: Tuesday, July 29th, 2014
Time: 8:15 AM
Number: 19002
Abstract ID:66
Candidate for Awards:None

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