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Columbia Climate School International Research Institute for Climate and Society


6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th


Science, Social Studies, Biology, Economics, English Language Arts

Resource Types

  • Lesson Plans
  • Activity - Classroom

Regional Focus




To Farm or Not to Farm

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  • This lesson plan has students take on the role of a farmer to decide if they should plant their crops when given differing weather conditions and economic situations.
  • Students will learn about the impacts of drought, crop insurance, local economic impacts, and other factors affecting farming decisions. 
Teaching Tips


  • This lesson includes an engaging activity that will spark conversations. 
  • Students will learn about how drought can impact a farm and what decisions farmers can make to lessen those impacts.
  • Teachers can use this student-facing presentation to give students visual support during the lesson.

Additional Prerequisites

  • In order to complete this activity, you will need a container, different colored markers, tokens, and playing cards. 


  • This lesson would work well in science or economics classes, but cross-curricular connections can also be made in health classes that are discussing the origins of healthy foods. 
  • Before starting this lesson, have students jot down or share what they know about farms, drought, and index insurance. After playing, revisit this conversation to talk about how their understanding changed.
  • Social studies classes can discuss how farmers in other countries may have to make different decisions if they do not have insurance available.
  • Have students think about how climate change may make insurance unavailable for everyone if extreme weather events occur more frequently.
Scientist Notes
This guide allows students to understand and evaluate climate risk on agricultural production and recommend strategic ways for farmers to reduce risk and potential losses associated with climate change impacts while also strengthening their capacity to boost farm income under a changing climate. All additional materials and data sources have been fact-checked, and this resource is recommended for teaching.
  • Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
    • ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
      • MS-ESS3-4 Construct an argument supported by evidence for how increases in human population and per-capita consumption of natural resources impact Earth's systems.
      • HS-ESS3-1 Construct an explanation based on evidence for how the availability of natural resources, occurrence of natural hazards, and changes in climate have influenced human activity.
    • ETS1: Engineering Design
      • HS-ETS1-1 Analyze a major global challenge to specify qualitative and quantitative criteria and constraints for solutions that account for societal needs and wants.
    • LS2: Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
      • MS-LS2-1 Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for the effects of resource availability on organisms and populations of organisms in an ecosystem.
  • College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Standards
    • Dimension 2: Economics
      • D2.Eco.1.6-8 Explain how economic decisions affect the well-being of individuals, businesses, and society.
  • Common Core English Language Arts Standards (CCSS.ELA)
    • Speaking & Listening (K-12)
      • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.11-12.1 Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 11-12 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
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