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Digging Into Soil

digging into soilOur fast-paced, technology-driven society spends very little time thinking about one of the most important natural resources on earth — soil. We pave over it to create new roads, we clear the vegetation and compact it when we build new housing, and we pollute it with chemicals. Careless treatment of soil and land is not a new phenomenon. History books fully document the demise of civilizations that poorly managed their soils. The past solution that worked for our ancestors, to move to land with untouched soil, is no longer an option. Due to rapid land development and occupation associated with human population growth, we are nearing maximum capacity of our harvestable lands.  We must change our perception that soil is a limitless resource and begin treating it as the finite, fragile and precious resource that it truly represents.

To change our current mindset, we need to educate people about the important role of soil in our ecosystem, and what better place to start than with our youth?  To inspire and support educators in implementing soil education-related learning experiences, KidsGardening teamed up with The Lower Sugar River Watershed Association to develop a curriculum guide, Digging into Soil: A Garden Practicum. The ultimate goal of Digging into Soil is to cultivate a new generation that is inspired to make collective choices that preserve and improve existing soil resources.

”Soil, water, and air are fundamental to life on planet earth,” shares Susan Lehnhardt, President of The Lower Sugar River Watershed Association, a nonprofit volunteer conservation organization based in south central Wisconsin, dedicated to the care and enjoyment of water resources and to empowering citizens with experience and knowledge to steward land and water resources in the Lower Sugar River Valley. “Childhood is the best time to learn about and get excited about the world around us. Knowing about the miracle of soil and why it is important to us and to other life can make a difference in the decisions we make throughout our lives about how we care for our planet, especially in our own backyards.”

Digging into Soil is a garden-centered high school soil science curriculum linked to Next Generation Science Standards, although it could easily be adapted for middle school grades too. The lessons in this guide are intended to bring students’ understanding of soil to life. Opening their eyes to the intricate system under our feet and inspiring their participation in protecting, regenerating and restoring soils will ensure a healthy planet in our future. At the heart of the guide is practical information on how to relate the lessons to your school garden. Gardening is an extraordinary, tangible way to gain an appreciation and respect for soil. From germination to harvest, the quality of your garden soil directly influences the health and growth of your plants. Cultivating a school garden to use for demonstration and experimentation purposes creates a living laboratory for effective hands-on learning for kids of all ages.

KidsGardening and The Lower Sugar River Watershed Association are convinced that the future depends on caring citizens making environmentally sound decisions, and this means they need basic knowledge about soil and our impact on these systems. Beyond basic knowledge, they must also feel connected to the soil so they are motivated to find and implement solutions needed to protect this precious resource. Soil can no longer be viewed as a commodity used to create industrial products like a tool in a factory, where short-term economic gains trump its long-term health. Soil is much more than just sand, silt and clay. It is a complex system critical to our health, wellbeing, and survival. Healthy soil is fundamental to healthy life on earth!

Digging into Soil, our high school soil science curriculum, is available to all for suggested donation. Download it today!