National Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix
Search Lesson Plans & Companion Resources
Build it Better
6 - 8
In this lesson students investigate animal handling preferences and design a cattle corral system that is durable, efficient, and effective. Students will also discover the skills needed to be an agricultural engineer.
For the class:
- Internet connection
For each group:
- Various Construction Materials: Ruler, scissors, glue, poster board, craft sticks, construction paper, chenille stems, cardboard, cereal boxes, toothpicks, fabric, and more, for each group
For each student:
- Build It Better Design Plan handout
- Build It Better Design Resources handout
- Build It Better Design Grading Rubric
Essential Files (maps, charts, pictures, or documents)
- Build It Better Design Plan handout
- Build It Better Design Grading Rubric
- Build it Better Design Resources
livestock: domesticated animals raised in an agricultural setting to produce commodities such as food and fiber
environment: the surroundings or conditions in which a person, animal, or plant lives or operates
behavior: the way in which an animal acts in response to a particular situation or stimulus.
agricultural engineer: the branch of engineering that deals with the design of farm machinery and the location and planning of farm structures
handling: the manner in which an animal is treated
well-being: the contentment of an animal measured by indicators including behavior, physiology, longevity, and reproduction
Did you know? (Ag Facts)
- Temple Grandin has done extensive work on the design of handling facilities and has worked with companies worldwide—from the United States and Canada to Europe, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand and other countries.1
- Today, half the cattle in the U.S. and Canada are handled in equipment she designed for meat processing plants.1
- Agricultural engineers help design methods of farming that decrease labor, therefore increasing a farmer's ability to produce food.2
Background Agricultural Connections
Interest Approach – Engagement
- Discuss with your students the following vocabulary words: well-being, environment, behavior, and livestock.
- Ask your students the following questions and lead a class discussion:
- "What are some elements of animal welfare that should be considered when caring for animals?" (their necessities of life such as food, water, and shelter are met)
- "What are the benefits to the farmer for having calm and content animals? What are the benefits to the consumer?" (calm animals are easier for the farmer to work with and generally produce more milk, meat, or eggs.)
- Inform your students that in this lesson, they will:
- Investigate animal handling preferences.
- Use online resources to research solutions to real-life problems.
- Plan and construct models.
- Design a cattle corral system that is durable, efficient, and effective.
- Learn about the skills needed to be an agricultural engineer.
- Help students start thinking like engineers by sharing this scenario:
- Maxine has an aging German shepherd named Frankie. Maxine needs to take Frankie to the veterinarian for his annual check-up. Since Frankie has gotten older, he can no longer get into Maxine’s truck independently. Unfortunately, Maxine broke her arm in a skiing accident last week and cannot lift him. It’s 9:45 and Maxine needs to think of a quick, safe, and efficient way to load Frankie into the truck for his 10 o’clock appointment. Put your engineering thinking cap on and let’s solve the problem!
- Brainstorm and record student ideas for loading Frankie into the truck. Remind students to think about keeping Frankie calm and safe while accomplishing the desired goal. Tell students that agricultural engineers apply basic science and engineering principles to design solutions to challenges in agricultural production. Highlight the responsibilities and skills of an agricultural engineer:
- Agricultural engineers may design agricultural machinery and facilities using drawings and models.
- Agricultural engineers use their knowledge and skills to solve real-world problems.
- Agricultural engineers need to be creative with the ability to envision new designs such as tractors and their implements, livestock handling systems, irrigation systems, and animal housing.
- They must understand science and engineering concepts
- Tell students that in today’s activity they will be designing a corral system for cattle. Temple Grandin is a legend in the world of animal agriculture. She is known for her extraordinary understanding of the animal mind which has assisted her in designing animal handling systems—especially in cattle production. Temple Grandin gives credit to her autism, a condition that makes social interactions with other people challenging, for helping her understand how animals think and respond to their environment.
- Show the first minute and 40 seconds of a video that introduces Temple Grandin and her work. There are also a variety of videos available on the Temple Grandin YouTube channel. Grandin also improved slaughterhouse design, so you may wish to filter which video students watch.
- Review the Build It Better Design Plan handout with the class. The objective of the project is to design a model livestock corral and alley way for loading livestock onto trucks for transportation. The goal of your design is to keep the animals calm and safe. Your group will be graded on the effectiveness, efficiency, and durability of your design. As groups research and plan their design, they should record their progress on the Build It Better Design Plan handout. Each group must have teacher approval for their plan before starting construction. Introduce students to the available construction materials and divide students into groups.
- Once students have completed their models, groups will present their design to the class in a three-to-five-minute presentation. Students should highlight research findings, design characteristics, modifications, and their construction procedure. You may wish to grade the models using the Build It Better Design Grading Rubric or have students complete the rubric to grade their peers.
- Conclude the lesson by discussing the reflection questions on the Build It Better Design Plan handout.
Concept Elaboration and Evaluation
After conducting these activities, review and summarize the following key concepts:
- Farmers and ranchers care for their animals by providing food, water, and shelter to keep them comfortable.
- Advances in technology decrease the labor necessary to produce our food on farms. Agricultural engineers develop and design these tools and machines.
- Agricultural engineers develop many types of tools and machines to use on farms. Some are simple such as a specific type of gate or animal feeder. Others are very complex machines such as tractors and harvesters.
- Ethics are a belief of what is right and what is wrong. Ethics guide the decisions of farmers in ranchers in raising animals to produce food and fiber.
- Instead of creating a three-dimensional model, students can create a three-dimensional sketch using an online program, such as Google SketchUp.
- Distribute graph paper and challenge students to create a scaled diagram of their design.
- If students are not yet comfortable researching topics online, review the recommended resources prior to the lesson and print out specific documents that will help them identify design characteristics. Otherwise, teachers may use an LCD projector or SMART Board™ to demonstrate how to search the Web and identify important information.
- Challenge advanced students by giving them specific information such as type of truck, age, size or gender of cattle, and the distance between the animal housing and loading area.
- This lesson employs group work and cooperative learning. These activities provide opportunities for students to exchange, write, and present ideas.
- Identify the origin of lesson-specific words such as corral, humane, model, durable, implement, and effective. Knowledge of Greek and Latin prefixes, suffixes, and roots can greatly enhance student understanding of engineering terms and facilitate a better understanding of English.
We welcome your feedback! Please take a minute to tell us how to make this lesson better or to give us a few gold stars!
Invite a local rancher to your class to discuss their livestock facilities. Ask the rancher to share a diagram of their corral and identify areas that are working well, and areas that could be improved. Your county Farm Bureau may be able to connect you to a local rancher.
Learn more about livestock facilities by visiting a local ranch, auction yard, or feedlot. Ask your tour guide to explain how their facilities keep animals calm and safe. If appropriate, have students employ Temple Grandin’s unique way of thinking by moving through the system to understand the animal’s perspective.
Further explore the contributions of Temple Grandin by watching the full-length film, Temple Grandin (2010, PG). As students watch the movie, have them record the challenges and successes she encounters as she designs facilities for animals.
Have students research the educational background and skills required to be an agricultural engineer.
Suggested Companion Resources
- The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin (Book)
- The Most Magnificent Thing (Book)
- Agricultural Engineering Video (Multimedia)
- Careers in Agriculture Videos (Multimedia)
- You're Hired! (Multimedia)
- Sprout 2 - Careers (Booklets & Readers)
- Feed, Nourish, Thrive (Careers Website) (Website)
Agricultural Literacy Outcomes
Science, Technology, Engineering & Math
- Explain how and why agricultural innovation influenced modern economic systems (T4.6-8.e)
- Identify science careers related to both producers and consumers of agricultural products (T4.6-8.g)
- Identify specific technologies that have reduced labor in agriculture (T4.6-8.h)
Plants and Animals for Food, Fiber & Energy
- Explain the role of ethics in the production and management of food, fiber and energy sources (T2.6-8.b)
- Identify strategies for housing for animal welfare and the safety of animal products (e.g., meat, milk, eggs) (T2.6-8.e)
Education Content Standards
Animal Systems Career Pathway
AS.07.01Design programs to prevent animal diseases, parasites and other disorders and ensure animal welfare.
AS.08.02Evaluate the effects of environmental conditions on animals and create plans to ensure favorable environments for animals.
MS-ETS1 Engineering Design
MS-ETS1-1Define the criteria and constraints of a design problem with sufficient precision to ensure a successful solution, taking into account relevant scientific principles and potential impacts on people and the natural environment that may limit possible solutions.
Common Core Connections
Reading: Anchor Standards
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.2Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.4Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.
Speaking and Listening: Anchor Standards
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.1Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.2Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.3Evaluate a speaker’s point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric.
Writing: Anchor Standards
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.1Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
Mathematics: Practice Standards
CCSS.MATH.PRACTICE.MP1Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them. Students start by explaining to themselves the meaning of a problem and looking for entry points to its solution. They analyze givens, constraints, relationships, and goals. They make conjectures about the form and meaning of the solution and plan a solution pathway rather than simply jumping into a solution attempt. They consider analogous problems, and try special cases and simpler forms of the original problem in order to gain insight into its solution. They monitor and evaluate their progress and change course if necessary. Students check their answers to problems using a different method, and they continually ask themselves, “Does this make sense?” They can understand the approaches of others to solving complex problems and identify correspondences between different approaches.
CCSS.MATH.PRACTICE.MP4Model with mathematics. Students can apply the mathematics they know to solve problems arising in everyday life, society, and the workplace. Students who can apply what they know are comfortable making assumptions and approximations to simplify a complicated situation, realizing that these may need revision later. They are able to identify important quantities in a practical situation and map their relationships using such tools as diagrams, two-way tables, graphs, flowcharts and formulas. They can analyze those relationships mathematically to draw conclusions.
CCSS.MATH.PRACTICE.MP5Use appropriate tools strategically. Students consider the available tools when solving a mathematical problem. These tools might include pencil and paper, concrete models, a ruler, a protractor, a calculator, a spreadsheet, a computer algebra system, a statistical package, or dynamic geometry software. Students at various grade levels are able to identify relevant external mathematical resources, such as digital content located on a website, and use them to pose or solve problems. They are able to use technological tools to explore and deepen their understandings of concepts.