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!
Your work on this is paying off! I feel like I am having more and more conversations with our students about the environment, soil, climate and how we must be thoughtful to make sure you are preserving and fixing what is left of our planet. Thanks for the work you do and for making ESA a place where students think about the world as a place they can save!
I really like the idea for your final unit–it feels so relevant to the real world and very actionable in terms of what students can do with what they are learning. In thinking about both climate change and our human impact on the soil, I automatically think of activism. Are there any case studies of people, communities, groups, or governments that have made policy that has had a measurable impact on the soil? Such case studies might provide some inspiration for students, and who knows, maybe even some data to look out in terms of policy outcomes!