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Soil Health in Elementary Education

Background and Purpose

This work was initiated as a part of the Fall 2019 Washington State Soil Health Initiative (WaSHI) seed grant call for proposals for outreach and education.  During September of 2019, the Global Climate Strikes, also known as the Global Week for the Future, had begun, involving 4,500 locations in 150 countries as a part of the school strike for climate movement. They were timed to occur around the UN Youth Climate Summit, involved over 7 million people, and have been the largest climate strikes in world history, inspired by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, age 15 at the time.

“It’s our Future that’s at stake” was the rallying cry of those millions of school-age protestors in cities worldwide at the time this work was proposed, and the WaSHI was just getting underway. The youth of the world are worried, and rightly so, regarding the future of our planet.  This is why targeting elementary-age students with a solutions-based Soil Health science curriculum is timely and essential in changing the outlook and attitude of future generations towards soils and the importance of soil stewardship.

Soil Health is inextricably linked to some of the most important issues facing our planet and future generations, from a warming climate and increasing extreme weather events, to toxic build up of waste streams and contaminants, to fresh air and water, to the very food quantity and quality on our tables each and every day. As it stands now, students enter college with little to no comprehension of the importance of soils in our every day lives, with desire to address global issues, but without the toolbox to even understand where the roots of the issues lie.  We hope to begin to develop a series of simple, soils based STEM curriculum targeting elementary school-age children through educational partners throughout the state, to establish what tools and resources are most effective and eventually add class-room based activities, as the global pandemic allows.

At the moment we are working to send out sample Soil Health Classroom kits and gauge interest.  If you, your classroom, or school would like to be involved, please see the contact information below.

Soil Health Classroom Kits

At the moment a sample of the classroom kits might look something like this, with books, stickers, bookmarks, and items pertaining to soil health and preserving soil biodiversity.

Hands-On Activities and Outreach Events

As schools and classrooms open back up to outside visitors, we will be available for hands-on activities, 4-H events, STEM Fairs, and similar outreach.  Please contact us for more information.

Primary Contact:  Tarah S. Sullivan, t.sullivan@wsu.edu

Additional Educational Resources

Soils4Teachers

Soils4Kids

Epic! Online Soils Books

Kiddle: Soil Facts for Kids

Easy Science for Kids: All About Soils

Easy Science for Kids: Healthy Soils