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The practice of agriculture has dramatically changed the face of the earth and has served as the economic, political, and social foundation of every human civilization. Agricultural societies are frequently typified by their dependence upon certain crops. Crop plant species that are the most important are under heavy selection pressure with many recognized varieties. In general, the more important the crop, the more varieties that will be named. Plants involved in the development of agriculture have fundamentally shaped history contributing to wars and peace, prosperity and famine. "An army marches on its stomach." This episode considers the evolutionary history that connects development of particular plants as intensively cultivated foods and the rise of political states with armies.
OSN Review Summary
This review is based on the comments of 12 undergraduate students. Fall, 2009.
As a group of undergraduate students we really enjoyed the video, we liked many of the concepts in the video and learned a lot about the origins of agriculture. Some students liked the idea of plants domesticating people and discussed this concept along with readings. This concept had been introduced in the readings from Plants and People by Balick and Cox. The video went along well with the Agriculture Chapter in the book. We thought it looked really warm in the video, which was refreshing as we watched the video on a cold, rainy day.
Clarifications and suggestions
Students wanted to see more images on the PowerPoint slides instead of just text. They also thought it would be beneficial to have a video feed in the corner so you can see Dr. McClathey talking. They also wanted more action to the video, being in more types of fields than just a corn field. They liked how the corn moved.
There were some concepts that were harder to understand for a 100-level Introduction to Ethnobotany course. For example, many students didn’t know, what crops such as taro and breadfruit were. They didn't know where they were from or what they taste like. The students also didn’t know what the Green Revolution was. When the class was asked to guess what they thought the Green Revolution was, their comments related it to the environmental movement. As a result, the video provoked a discussion about the Green Revolution.
Other thoughts the video provoked
Horticulture was not specifically defined; what is horticulture verses agriculture?
When it was explained that people eat grains/legumes or roots or tree parts, students thought it might be interesting to see where on the earth there are cultures with these differences. This invoked new questions in my mind where different types of agriculture originated.
The class thought it was really interesting how there were relationships between cultural and society aspects of growing grasses. The class liked how agriculture was related to things like the school system, lawns, and golf courses. One of the students asked if Dr. McClatchey was a cultural anthropologist.
It was also really interesting when warfare and peace were mentioned in relation to being self-sufficient or not. It would be interesting relate to being on an island and how trade works on an island. Students were very interested in the cultural significance of the origin of agriculture.
Students liked how the slide showed the scientific name, many asked about the families these plants were in, where they grasses or not. Students mentioned that sometimes it was easier to remember families first and then think about genus and species names.
Additional Review Observations
An instructor who used this module in the Spring, 2010, made the following observations.
The content of this video is very relevant and useful to the course. I like how Will McClatchey is standing in a cornfield, and how he often varies the environment in which we find him in different videos. I find the introductory sequence of this particular video a bit distracting in the way it was edited, however. This video has a modified beginning compared to the other videos in the series in that it keeps cutting back to Will McClatchey in the cornfields. Although there are some important topics he does not delve into, that was fine for my purposes, as it sets up good discussion for class time. Also, the associated PDF’s posted with the video should be clarified.
Several students in the course offered their impressions of this module.
I think Will does a good job of explaining a hard concept. I don’t think the video needs as much work as the PDF’s, which may make it easier to follow what he is saying for students. I think the cornfields are a good touch for the video as well. Will does a good job explaining the points and the themes and I don’t think I would change much besides the length doesn’t really need to be so long but it is a lot of useful information. Also I wish Will would have gone a little more into the American food craze and the effects it has on indigenous peoples.
I liked this video because it opened my mind on what people in the past went through with agriculture, grasses, and the different types of edible plants.
One of the most interesting parts of the video was when he talked about the seasons and its relation to school breaks. It is something that enlightened me, and something I will definitely share with others. Another thing I thought was interesting was that the crops that were grown led to various technologies. The only negative things I would have to say about this program is that was very long (unnecessarily so) and the information provided was repetitive.