I’ve taught “Sucio” (Spanish for dirty) countless times. The 9/10 earth science course focuses on the content of soil while emphasizing skills around the scientific method.

The course is divided into 3 units. The first focuses on soil types and properties of soil and includes testing different soils’ abilities to grow plants, decompose a strawberry, provide a medium for redworms, and absorb water. The second unit focuses on the impact humans have on soil. Students design experiments that mimic human behaviors such as urbanization, monoculture, and pesticide use. For this unit, the focus is on the damage our daily lives have on the soil and our earth in general. Honestly, it’s a pretty grim unit! So, unit 3 focuses on how humans can make choices in their daily lives that will positively impact soil and the environment in general. Because this unit comes last, it frequently ends up being pretty short and often not as well-planned out as the other two. Also, because it doesn’t include an experiment, I struggle with what product students will work on, how they will be assessed, and how the information can motivate REAL CHANGE in behavior.

How might we design a mini-unit that engages students in authentic environmental action?

At this point, I think most students understand that the environment is being negatively affected by human activities, I’m just not sure they feel it’s something they can have agency over. So the plan is to look at some daily activities of ESA students, how they impact soil and the environment, and some alternatives. I want this to be very data-driven, so will look at actual numbers about how things like using a re-usable water bottle can have a positive impact. As I said, I also want to focus on student authenticity, so I’m envisioning each student to make a commitment to one activity and collect data on themselves that they can share with their classmates.

So, stay tuned as ESA’s Soil Science Students Save the World!