When Franklin County first-grade teachers needed assistance in teaching the basics of soil science to their students, they turned to the county’s Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service office. Angie Riffle, 4-H youth development extension educator, developed a hands-on educational program dubbed “The Scoop on Soils” and has presented it in every Brookville, Laurel, Mount Carmel and St. Michael first-grade classroom for the past two years.
The students learn that there are thousands of different types of soils in the world, with 36 in Franklin County alone. They also discover why soils are essential to life and that soils are formed in layers (called horizons) and made of organic matter, minerals, air and water. Scientists classify soils based on their texture and the students are given samples and asked to determine the types of soil. They do this by feeling it, trying to roll the soil into a “snake” and by filtering colored water through their sample and observing the results.
Literacy is also incorporated by reading the book “Soil Basics” by Mari Schuh and Gail Saunders-Smith. The students really enjoy learning about science and participating in the activities.
According to Riffle, “The program is definitely messy, but very fun and educational!” She suggests parents ask first-graders what the state soil of Indiana is. “If you need a hint, it’s the Miami soil.”