Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Food Inc. Discussion Guide for Teachers

You've seen Food Inc. The message was crystal clear to you and so important. You want others to see it. You want others to think about it. You want others to learn from it. Well, you are not alone - the people at Food, Inc. agree wholeheartedly with you and, with that in mind, they partnered up with The Center for Ecoliteracy and Participant Media to design a discussion guide to use alongside the film in classrooms around the country and world.

Click the image to download.

I received an e-mail about this guide this afternoon and as soon as I downloaded the the guide and started reading it, I knew I hit educational resource gold! The guide is separated into nine chapters, each to go along with a segment of the film. Each chapter has a focus question that the discussion for that lesson surrounds, multiple discussion questions, an activity and a reflection. The educational philosophy of this guide is to use the Socratic method - one that teaches through questioning. It is a fabulous technique, especially for such thought-provoking and discussion building topics such as food and its industry.

Here is a list of the nine chapters, with the corresponding film clip length and the focus question for that lesson to give you a little taste of all of the rich discussion material provided in this guide:
1 FAST FOOD TO ALL FOOD (running time of corresponding film segment 12:52)
Focus Question: Do animals have the right to a certain quality of life?

2 A CORNUCOPIA OF CHOICES (running time of corresponding film segment 7:54)
Focus Question: Do people have the right to know what is in their food?

3 UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES (running time of corresponding film segment 13:56)
Focus Question: Who is responsible for keeping our food safe?

4 THE DOLLAR MENU (running time of corresponding film segment 5:12)
Focus Question: Should access to healthy food be a right for everyone?

5 IN THE GRASS (running time of corresponding film segment 13:44)
Focus Question: When deciding what to eat, how much should we consider the workers who pick, process, and transport it?

6 HIDDEN COSTS (running time of corresponding film segment 8:00)
Focus Question: Does it matter to you which food companies produce your food?

7 FROM SEED TO THE SUPERMARKET (running time of corresponding film segment 10:07)
Focus Question: Should companies be able to own the DNA contained in plant seeds?

8 THE VEIL (running time of corresponding film segment 7:59)
Focus Question: Should a company have the power to decide what information to give consumers about the food it produces?

9 SHOCKS TO THE SYSTEM (running time of corresponding film segment 7:07)
Focus Question: What individual or collective actions are you willing to take to improve our food system, and what would be their impact?
 Writing as a teacher in this moment, I can tell you that one of the fantastic things about the design of this guide is the flexibility of it. Each chapter is a lesson in and of itself - there is nothing saying that these nine chapters must be done in order, or that they even have to all be done if your schedule/curriculum does not allow. After reading this all the way through I can imagine it in so many different realizations - a two-week unit, a long-term class project (Food Fridays for nine - ten weeks), or even an after school activity for an environmentalist group! There is nothing more powerful to students than activities that a re RELEVANT - how much more relevant can you get than what they are eating every single day?!

I know of many teachers that love  to teach using the film Fast Food Nation, I also know that many of my students were getting kind of sick of "the McDonald's movie" because they had seen it so many times! This is why I really like this guide: 1. it is something different, and 2. it takes the time to truly focus on the issues raised in the film in a way that is so much more powerful than watching the movie, beginning to to end and then having a discussion about it!

So here it goes:


Download this guide and give it to one of your kid's teachers that you think would appreciate it!

 Download this guide and bring it to a teacher that you think will respond to a request to teach more about food (even if they can't fit it in this semester, think of what a great thing you are doing for the students who come after you!)

I haven't forgotten about you!! Check out those focus questions!! Intrigued?! Well, have you ever been to a book club meeting where people sit down and discuss a books major points together? Why not download this guide and set up a Food Inc. Club to discuss this movie with a group of food-conscious friends who then can decide, together, what kind of actions you can take for food!

...I think I made my point.

Enjoy the guide. Enjoy the film. Enjoy the discussion. Enjoy your food!

Here's my reaction after The First Time I Watched Food Inc.

Which focus question/chapter do you think is the most important one to discuss? Why?

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