Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Sampling Soil at Lincoln Elementary

Amanda Crawley

Recently, we traveled to Lincoln Elementary School to work with students on a garden project at their school. Our goal was to educate them on the important properties of the soil which help things grow and the difference between garden soil and urban soil. Going into the classroom, we found they were surprisingly intrigued of the prospect of growing their own food. Sampling the soil specifically excited the kids at the possibility of seeing a worm.

A photo of Lincoln Elementary

Students were able to make the connections between the texture and color of the soils and how the correlate to the ability to grow plants. The kids knew without much direction that the soil from the garden was much better suited for growing things. The soil that is ideal for gardening is soil that is composed of the smaller clay particles (which aids in the retention of nutrients essential for growth) and and darker in color (which indicates a higher percentage of organic matter).

SoilBall.jpg (32757 bytes)
Pictures showing the test to determine the texture of soil by touch

Going into this project of working with kids was a pretty scary prospect for me, but our interactions were actually an overall good experience. It was a great feeling knowing that we were helping to educate these kids on the importance of soil health and the process of growing plants.

Soil Sampling at Lincoln Elementary

    Soil Sampling at Lincoln Elementary

During our visit on Friday, March 27th, we were able to collaborate and share ideas with the students participating in the after-school program at Lincoln Elementary. Having the opportunity to work with these kids and get them excited about something that the world needs to know about; it gives you a great feeling. Having the opportunity to see them a second time-and them remembering your name and being excited to see you? That's the true joy of this experience. 

Source: Google Images
Lincoln Elementary School
Source: Google Images
Before we were joined by the students, however, we took soil samples from the lawn of the school as well as the intended plot for gardening.

Having a laugh while taking samples from the garden


You can clearly see from these images that there is a difference in both the composition as well as the color of the two soils being sampled. The soil from the garden is also primarily rid of unwanted plant life while the soil of the lawn is filled with grasses, weeds and various debris.

     Once we were able to speak with the kids we discussed the coloration of soil, and had them. One student in particular was extremely enthused with the presence of a worm in the soil sample we took. Discussing the importance of these creatures led to the conversation of which soil they thought would be best. Without a question the soil from the Garden won. These kids knew-without any scientific reasoning- that the darker more "together" soil was better for growing vegetables.

Source: Google Images
Worms got the kids excited about sampling soil!
With the students we explored soil color and texture and how it related to soil health. In explanation we discussed the importance of nutrients in the soil (soil organic matter) as well as the texture and how that could affect plant growth (runoff, erosion, flooding, etc). We used the analogy of a plant in sand as opposed to soil to establish the importance of soil composition or texture. The kids understood that sand was bad for growth because it can't hold water and does not have nutrients in it.

I would say that overall this was a great experience for everyone involved. The students from Lincoln gave us great energy, and I can't wait to see them again! It will be really great to expand this effort and give back to the community through the planting and management of a community garden. Not only will it provide fresh vegetables in a food desert, it will also teach the kids: the importance of soil quality, the impact the environment has on food, the care it takes to grow food, the joy of a job well done!

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