Position Paper: Which of Michael Pollan’s Four Food Chains Would You Choose to Feed the United States? | EL Education Curriculum

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ELA 2012 G8:M4:U3

Position Paper: Which of Michael Pollan’s Four Food Chains Would You Choose to Feed the United States?

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In this unit, students use their research and their position speech from Unit 2 to write a position paper to answer the question: Which of Michael Pollan's four food chains would you choose to feed the United States? The paper must include a claim to answer the question, two reasons for making that claim, and evidence to support each of the reasons. There must also be a counterclaim and response. Students analyze a model position paper to guide them in the writing process and plan their essay one paragraph at a time. For the performance task at the end of the unit, students create a visual representation of their position paper.

Big Ideas & Guiding Questions

  • Which of Michael Pollan's four food chains would best feed the United States?
  • What are the consequences of each of the food chains?
  • Which stakeholders are affected by the consequences of each food chain?
  • When taking a position on an issue, you need to research the consequences and stakeholders affected by each option.
  • When putting forward an argument, you need to provide relevant and sufficient evidence to support your claims.

Content Connections

This module is designed to address English Language Arts standards as students read The Omnivore's Dilemma, an informational text about food sustainability. However, the module intentionally incorporates Social Studies practices and themes to support potential interdisciplinary connections to this compelling content. These intentional connections are described below.

Big ideas and guiding questions are informed by the New York State Common Core K-8 Social Studies Framework:

Unifying Themes (pages 6-7)

  • Theme 4: Geography, Humans, and the Environment: The relationship between human populations and the physical world (people, places, and environments); impact of human activities on the environment; interactions between regions, locations, places, people, and environments.
  • Theme 9: Science, Technology, and Innovation: Applications of science and innovations in transportation, communication, military technology, navigation, agriculture, and industrialization.

Social Studies Practices: Geographic Reasoning, Grades 5-8

  • Descriptor 2: Describe the relationships between people and environments and the connections between people and places (page 58).
  • Descriptor 3: Identify, analyze, and evaluate the relationship between the environment and human activities, how the physical environment is modified by human activities, and how human activities are also influenced by Earth's physical features and processes.

 Social Studies Practices: Gathering, Using, and Interpreting Evidence, Grades 5-8

  • Descriptor 1: Define and frame questions about events and the world in which we live and use evidence to answer these questions.
  • Descriptor 2: Identify, describe, and evaluate evidence about events from diverse sources (including written documents, works of art, photographs, charts and graphs, artifacts, oral traditions, and other primary and secondary sources).
  • Descriptor 4: Describe and analyze arguments of others.
  • Descriptor 6: Recognize an argument and identify evidence that supports the argument; examine arguments related to a specific social studies topic from multiple perspectives; deconstruct arguments, recognizing the perspective of the argument and identifying evidence used to support that perspective.


Each unit is made up of a sequence of between 5-20 lessons. The “unit at a glance” chart in the curriculum map breaks down each unit into its lessons, to show how the curriculum is organized in terms of standards address, supporting targets, ongoing assessment, and protocols. It also indicates which lessons include the mid-unit and end-of-unit assessments.

Texts and Resources to Buy

Texts that need to be procured. Please download the Trade Book List for procurement guidance.

Text or Resource Quantity ISBNs
The Omnivore’s Dilemma: The Secrets Behind What You Eat, Young Readers Edition
by Michael Pollan
One per student
ISBN: 9781101993835

Optional: Community, Experts, Fieldwork, Service, and Extensions


  • Invite in local farmers to discuss their farming methods with students, as well as how the issues that Michael Pollan discusses affect their food production and their livelihoods.
  • Invite in representatives from grocery stores, including organic and health food stores, to share with students how the issues that Michael Pollan discusses affect their stores and consumers.
  • Invite in hunters who hunt to feed their families to share their perspective on hunting with students.


  • Arrange for a visit to a local grocery store to look at the ingredients in different foods and where the produce comes from.
  • Arrange for a visit to a food processing plant to look at what happens to food in a factory.
  • Arrange for a visit to farms, for example a local sustainable farm and an industrial farm, to see how food is produced and to compare the different ways things are done. 


Grow a class garden of basic vegetables and herbs and discuss the different ways to grow food--with or without fertilizers and chemicals. If you have the space and time, students could grow two gardens: one with and one without fertilizers and chemicals to compare how those things change how food grows.


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