Treynor, Iowa, – December 16th, 2019 – Loess Hills Agriculture in the Classroom recently completed a four-part lesson on soil with three second grade classes at Treynor Elementary. This series began on November 3rd with a demonstration about the earth’s water supply.
As a part of the lessons, students learned how little fresh water is available for all humans. Not just the water we use to drink and brush our teeth, but the water to grow the plants both that we and animals eat. Compared to all the water on earth, it is a very small amount represented by a single drop out of a one-gallon container.
Loess Hills Agriculture in the Classroom education program coordinator, Melanie Bruck, completed the activity Splash Zone. The lesson is one of hundreds that can be found on the Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation website. After placing a small amount of soil in the center of a “bulls-eye” students used water droppers to mimic erosion from a rain drop falling at the very beginning of water erosion. As the droplet hits the soil it splashes up and carries some of the soil away with it. As each droplet of water hits the soil, particles are spread out. Students chart the number of soil particles and see firsthand how uncovered soil can be transferred during a rain event. The students noticed as more drops hit the soil, the bigger the mess becomes, even splashing particles off of the paper and onto their desks.
“The students have really learned a lot from these programs,” stated second-grade teacher, Staci Robinson. “They were completely engaged while watching a video clip about erosion.”
The next lesson involved a video clip demonstrating five more kinds of erosion (rill, gulley, stream bank, sheet and wind erosion). Students filled out worksheets illustrating examples of each. On the back of their worksheet, students identified five ways farmers can help prevent erosion.
“Farmers have real problems, and it’s a really big job to keep soil in its place,” said Bruck. “But farmers have resources they can use and best management practices they can implement. Using conservation practices like contour tilling and planting, forming terraces, leaving grass waterways and buffers strips, as well as grazing forested areas, farmers care for the land by keeping much of the valuable soil where it’s needed.”
Students combined their knowledge of erosion and participated in an activity using soil samples in water bottles to represent fields. One bottle contained tilled soil, one bottle was soil that was layered with mulch representing plant residue from past years that stays on the field, and one bottle had a cover crop of oats planted in the soil where the students could see the roots holding the soil in place. The kids were quite excited to observe the water quickly flow out of the tilled field sample and then compared how clean the water was when we created the same rain activity over the sample with the cover crops.
“Is anyone thirsty?” Robinson asked her students.
One student pointed out how gross it was to see the large amount of soil that came out of the plastic bottle demonstration.
“Let’s do it again,” said the students.
The lessons help support science education in the classroom and align with the second-grade science standard which compares multiple solutions designed to slow or prevent wind or water from changing the shape of the land.
For more information, please visit www.IowaAgLiteracy.org.
About Loess Hills Agriculture in the Classroom
Loess Hills Agriculture in the Classroom is a regional effort of the Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation (IALF) established August of 2018. It serves school districts in five counties in southwest Iowa including Carroll Co., Crawford Co., Harrison Co., Shelby Co., and West Pottawattamie Co. The IALF mission is to educate Iowans, with a focus on youth, regarding the breadth and global significance of agriculture. IALF serves as a central resource for educators and volunteers who want to teach Iowa's students about agriculture. As leading producer of agricultural products, it is important for all Iowans to understand the essential role agriculture has in their lives. The mission of Agriculture in the Classroom is to "increase agricultural literacy through PK-12 education." An agriculturally literate person is "one who understands and can communicate the source and value of agriculture as it affects quality of life." AITC programs seek to improve student achievement by applying authentic, agricultural-based content as the context to teach core curriculum concepts in science, social studies, language arts and nutrition. By embedding agriculture into curriculum, AITC cultivates an understanding and appreciation of the food and fiber system that we rely on every day. AITC is unique within the agricultural education community as the lead organization to serve the full spectrum of PK-12 formal education. For more information visit IALF online at www.IowaAgLiteracy.org, on Facebook, and Twitter.
Melanie Bruck, Education Program Coordinator
Loess Hills Agriculture in the Classroom