Research Story: The Science of Farming

Middle School
High School
Research Story

"In the middle of Wisconsin’s lush farmland, there is an experiment going on. Two hundred quarter-acre plots are neatly laid out, separated by grassy lanes. Poplar saplings grow in one plot. Corn in another. A patch of miscanthus grass, taller than a person, stands between a plot of switchgrass and a patch of 'weeds.' What is going on here?" In this story, students follow the investigations of GLBRC agronomists, who design large-scale biofuel crop experiments on farms. Students learn about the unique challenges and interesting discoveries that come from conducting experiments in the field.

Research stories give students a window into the work of professional scientists and engineers. This allows students to see how the processes of school science are reflected in the real world while building literacy skills with science-specific content. Extend the learning by combining this activity with the Growing Energy data dive, Biomass Yield and Root Growth in Crops field investigations, Root Depth ModelBioenergy Farm Game, and Fields of Fuel computer game.

For more information, read this short introduction to research stories and how to use them in science classes.

Preview Instructor Guide
Environmental Science
Plants & Photosynthesis
Nature of science, literacy, agronomy, biomass, biofuels agriculture
Prior Knowledge
Familiarity with scientific method and basic experimental design helpful.
Time Required
20-50 minutes depending on time spent in class discussion.
Required Supplies
None. Download materials in activity package.