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Utah Agriculture in the Classroom

Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix

Lesson Plan


GPS and GIS Technology in Agriculture

Grade Levels
6 - 8

Students will explore technical careers in agriculture and learn how GPS and GIS technologies are used to improve agricultural production.

Estimated Time
Two 45-minute sessions
Materials Needed
Vocabulary Words

Geographic Information Systems (GIS): a computerized data management system used to capture, store, manipulate, analyze, manage, and display spatial information

Global Positioning Systems (GPS): a space-based satellite navigation system that provides location and time information in all weather conditions anywhere on or near the Earth where there is an unobstructed line of sight to four or more GPS satellites

precision agriculture : an information technology-based site-specific farm management system that collects and responds to data ensuring that crops receive exactly what they need for optimum health and productivity

Background Agricultural Connections

Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are areas of emerging technology in agriculture. In this lesson students will learn how GPS and GIS technology is used to improve agricultural food production.

GPS and GIS are both used in precision agriculture for many purposes including farm planning, field mapping, soil sampling, crop scouting, and yield mapping. GPS technology also provides tractor guidance and allows farmers to operate tractors and equipment in low visibility situations.

These advanced systems enable farmers to accurately manage their crops by applying the precise amount of pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers to crops. Farmers can also monitor problem areas in a field where crops may be struggling with weeds or disease. Once farmers have collected important data about their land, GPS technology allows them to precisely navigate their field and manage crops year after year. The precision that comes from using GPS and GIS technology reduces expenses for farmers, increases yield, and produces a more environmentally friendly farm.1

Interest Approach - Engagement
  1. Show students the videos What Happens When Farming Goes High-Tech? and Farmers: These are the Droids You’re Looking For (both are very short). 
  2. Ask students if they know of any other high-tech examples of agriculture. Keep a list on the whiteboard so that examples can be added during this lesson.

Activity 1: GPS and GIS Basics

  1. Define the acronyms GPS and GIS. Most students are likely familiar with GPS navigation systems on smart phones. Begin the lesson by asking students if they know how GPS works. 
  2. Show the following video clip to further illustrate and describe the use of GPS in our everyday lives. How GPS Works from Discovery News. 

Activity 2: Modern Marvels

  1. The movie Modern Marvels: Harvesting from the History Channel gives great illustrations and descriptions of specific technologies used in agriculture. The first segment shows the use of GPS and GIS technology in a rice field. (Note: DVD can be purchased from Amazon.)
  2. Use the movie activity sheet, Gearing up for Careers in Agricultural Technology. Print one for each student, and ask students to list each job they see as they watch the movie. 
  3. Before showing the movie, explain the difference between an entry-level position and an advanced-level position. Entry-level positions can be obtained with little or no outside education or training. Advanced positions usually require education, specific training, and/or years of experience in the career field. 
  4. Stop the movie frequently and point out careers until students can recognize them on their own.

Activity 3: Where in the World?

  1. This activity allows students to discover their own geographic locations using latitude and longitude measurements (GPS uses latitude and longitude measurements in addition to time and distance measurements from GPS satellites).
  2. Print one copy of the activity sheet Where in the World? for each student.
  3. Provide students computers with internet access, and ask them to follow the instructions on the activity sheet.

Concept Elaboration and Evaluation

After conducting these activities, review and summarize the following key concepts:

  • Technology plays an important role in agriculture, which provides the food, fiber, and shelter needed to cover the basic needs of people everywhere.
  • There are a variety of careers available in agricultural technology.
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!
Debra Spielmaker
Organization Affiliation
Utah Agriculture in the Classroom