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Paul D. Coverdell World Wise Schools

Paul D. Coverdell World Wise Schools

Terrace Agriculture and Soil Erosion

Science Extension

Africa, Asia, China, Guinea
Grades 3-5, Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12
Science, Social Studies & Geography

By viewing slide shows from Peace Corps Volunteers who served in China and Africa, students will explore the practice of terrace agriculture around the world and its effectiveness in maximizing space while minimizing soil erosion.

Begin by viewing the slide show, A Taste of Tongren, from a Peace Corps Volunteer in China, and discussing the central concepts using the accompanying lesson plan, What Can Food Tell Us About a Place? In the slide show, the narrator mentions the practice of terrace farming of rice fields. Students will view a second slide show, Fighting Soil Erosion, created by Peace Corps Volunteer in Guinea. Next, they will explore the practice of terrace agriculture around the world and its effectiveness in maximizing space while minimizing soil erosion.


Students will

  • identify soil as an essential resource for food production
  • describe the process of soil erosion
  • demonstrate the utility of terrace agriculture for preventing soil erosion, and give real-world examples of this practice 


  • Large piece of cardboard
  • Potting soil
  • Bottle of water
  • Clay
  • Sticks
  • Rocks 


  1. Revisit the photo from the slide show depicting terrace farming on rice fields. (linked above)
  2. Discuss:
    • How and why do you think farmers create terraced fields?
    • How would terracing increase farmland capacity?
    • What are other possible benefits?
  3. View the slide show Fighting Soil Erosion to see a comparative example of terrace agriculture in Guinea. Discuss how terrace farming helps prevent soil erosion and why this is important.
  4. Demonstrate the process of soil erosion on a hillside. Pour soil evenly over a large piece of cardboard. Prop the cardboard up on one end. Pour water over the soil, and observe how it washes down the hillside.
  5. Have students experiment with creating terraces on the cardboard using sticks, rocks, and clay. Test the model again. How do the terraces help hold the soil in place? 

Frameworks & Standards

Enduring understanding
  • Food production and human survival require adaptation to nature.
  • Resource conservation is essential for a sustainable future.
Essential Questions
  • Why is soil conservation important?
  • How can our understanding of natural processes help us solve real-world problems?
  • Science
    • Content Standard D: Earth and Space Science
    • Content Standard F: Science in Personal and Social Perspectives  


Terraces around the world

Research other countries or cultures that have employed terrace agriculture (e.g., Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Turkey, Japan, Italy, England, the Incas in South America, the Aztecs in Mexico). What other types of crops have these cultures successfully grown on terraced fields? Create a map highlighting global examples of terrace agriculture. 

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