Monthly Themes

Monthly Themes

JANUARY

We all depend on 4 basic things – food, clothing, shelter and water – and they are all related to a single, often overlooked resource: Soil!  Soils are complex mixtures of minerals, water, air, organic matter, and countless organisms that are the decaying remains of once-living things. It forms at the surface of land – it is the “skin of the earth.” Soil supports plant life and is vital to life on earth.

MARCH

Healthy soil results in a more stable food supply, which results in a strong community. Farmers use many practices and technologies, including precise applications of fertilizer and irrigation, to ensure that soil is conserved for sustainable food production and a healthy environment.

Soil Sam – Illinois AITC Students make a “Soil Sam”
with a baby food jar to hold the soil and
grass seeds planted to grow “hair”.
Includes suggested additions to learn about fertilizers.

Grade 9-12 The Chemistry of Fertilizers – California Foundation AITC
Hands-on experiments, activities, practice problems, discussions
and writing assignments are incorporated as students
learn to break compounds into ions, make a fertilizer
and test several fertilizers for phosphate content.

Grade 9-12 Chemistry in Plant Nutrition and Growth – Alaska AITC
Lesson plan with information, tables, diagrams,
and questions about plant nutrients in soil.

Create a Home or School Garden – Junior Master Gardeners Program of the extension network.

Journey 2050 – How will we sustainably feed 9 billion people by the year 2050? This curriculum-based education program uses ipad games, animated videos and interactive lessons to engage students.

Nutrients for Life Foundation

Fence that farmland!

Habitat mapping

Seeds to Seeds – Planting and harvesting winter wheat

APRIL

Soil plays an important role in capturing and cleaning water.  Soil texture, structure, and land coverings all have roles in determining how easily water will move through the soil to filter, store, and distribute water to reduce runoff and flooding.  The work of cleaning water is done by physical, chemical, and biological processes.  Healthy soils are critical to ensure clean water for recreation, consumption, crop production, and more.

Perkin through the Pores

Soil is a Filter

“Soil is a Filter” Video

Keeping Soil in its Place – Utah AITC Dirt: Secrets in the Soil 
Lessons, exercises, and hands-on activities about causes of erosion
and ways to reduce erosion. Designed for elementary students,
but parts are appropriate for middle school,
particularly the raindrop splash experiment
demonstrating how raindrops cause erosion.

Dr. Dirt’s Video Showing How Soil has a Negative Charge!

Why and How to make a Raingarden and Sustainable Landscape (PDF)

Watch this YouTube Video about EPA Soil Scientists Researching Rain Gardens in Cities!

Learn More about Why You Should Consider Rain Barrels

Catch The Rainwater activities from Arizona State

Soil Moisture-Dirt to Dinner activity

Drinking Water: Protecting the Source

National Groundwater Association Lesson Plans

Journey 2050 – How will we sustainably feed 9 billion people by the year 2050? This curriculum-based education program uses ipad games, animated videos and interactive lessons to engage students.

MAY

While a leaning building or a cracked foundation seems inconvenient, lack of soils knowledge can also result in catastrophic structural failures. There is soil under buildings and understanding soil and its properties is important in deciding where different types of structures can be built.

Hold it Up – NOVA Students study how the soil beneath a building influences the buildings stability. This activity is associatedwith the NOVA program “Fall of the Leaning Tower” about the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Keeping the Soil in Its Place – Utah AITC Dirt: Secrets in the Soil Lessons, exercises, and hands-on activities about causes of erosion and waysto reduce erosion. Designed for elementary students, but parts are appropriate for middle school, particularly the raindrop splash experiment demonstrating how raindrops cause erosion.

Erosion – Dr. Dirt’s K-12 Teaching Resources and Activities Photos and descriptions of some of the problems of erosion. Look near the bottom for pictures of erosion in urban settings.

People depend on soil activity (including an adobe brick home) (PDF)

Learn more about the soil microbes that hold soil together in this NRCS activity, Soil Glue

A good foundation

Land on the run

Liquefaction experiment: What soil will best support a building?

Taking soil cores – building foundations

JUNE

Like building sandcastles? Sand is a component of soil. Like playing soccer or baseball? Athletic fields, with natural grass surfaces, need healthy soils to support the grasses that support recreation. And, soil is important for golf courses, festival grounds, walking trails, forests, and any outdoor recreational area. 

Caring for our Watersheds – What can you do to improve your local watershed? Join students and community partners from around the world to protect our land, air and water.

What floats your boat

How should our gardens grow?

Let’s bake a soil cake! A tasty way to learn about soil horizons!

AUGUST

Soil stabilizes the environment so that the healthy living conditions we know today can continue. It cleans our water and protects us from environmental pollutants. And, it provides the nutrition and water plants need to become our food, shelter, or medicine.

Lots of things live in soils! Get a good view of them by using a Berlese Funnel

Investigating Backyard Bacteria (high school)

Read this EARTH Magazine story about antibacterial clays

Citizen Science Drugs from Dirt project

Seed Survivor: Growing healthy plants depends on healthy soil! Check out these videos for elementary students.

Little Green Thumbs: Year-round indoor gardening for kids just got easier! Little Green Thumbs gives students and teachers an opportunity to become food producers right in their classrooms!

You are what you drink

Seeds to Seeds – Planting and harvesting winter wheat

SEPTEMBER

There are many climates around the world and the soils in each of these are as different as the varying ecosystems.  Soil is part of all of them and will have different microorganism and plant communities which in turn supports different animal communities.

OCTOBER

Soil provides many services and many products. For example, the plants that are grown in soil can be used for food, clothing, recreation, aesthetics, building materials, medicines, and more. And, the minerals that make up soil particles can be used for dyes, make-ups, and medicines, or shaped into bricks, plates, and vases.

People depend on soil activity (including an adobe brick home) (PDF)

Learn how African cultures use soils to make Mudcloths

Learn how to make a “Dirt Shirt” from Dr. Dirt!

NOVEMBER

Climate has an important role in soil formation. Soil profiles can give us clues to past climates and weather cycles. And, soil is an important part of the global carbon cycle. Different land management practices result in different amounts of carbon being released to the atmosphere. Understanding this may allow us to manage for a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from soil and therefore manage soil’s effect on climate.

Keeping the Soil in Its Place – Utah AITC Dirt: Secrets in the Soil Lessons, exercises, and hands-on activities about causes of erosion and ways to reduce erosion. Designed for elementary students, but parts are appropriate for middle school, particularly the raindrop splash experiment demonstrating how raindrops cause erosion.

Erosion – Dr. Dirt’s K-12 Teaching Resources and Activities Photos and descriptions of some of the problems of erosion. Look near the bottom for pictures of erosion in urban settings.

Natural disasters

Weather patterns and climatic regions

UN’s video about soils and climate change

DECEMBER

Clues within soil can be a guide to what has happened in history. Clues within art and literature can be a guide to how societies have viewed soil. Evidence indicates that soil has been important in deciding the success or failure of many societies through agricultural sustainability and events such as battles or political changes. Soil and people are bound to each other. If we care for the soil, the soil will care for us.

Who did it? – Teachers First In this activity students use the unique properties of soil to solve a crime.

How Soil Evidence Helped Solve a Double Murder Case – CAFSS Case study describing how forensic soil scientists from the Centre for Australian Forensic Soil Science helped solve a murder case. Includes pictures (nothing gory) and explanations of soil evidence.

Collecting Crime Evidence From Earth – Geotimes Stories about cases in which soil evidence was used to solve crimes.

Color in the Garden (elem)

More than an Empty Pot

A Medieval Soil Mystery activity

Learn how African cultures use soils to make Mudcloths

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