Soil Science is a dirty business!

Join High Touch High Tech in celebrating
World Soil Day
December 5th, 2020

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What kind
of science is in soil? What is soil? So many questions…

Soil is a
material composed of five ingredients — minerals, organic plant matter,
living organisms, gas, and water. Are their soil scientists? Of

What do
soil scientists do? A soil scientist is a person who is
qualified to evaluate and interpret soils and soil-related
data for the purpose of understanding soil resources as they
contribute to not only agricultural production, but as they affect
environmental quality and as they are managed for protection of human health
and the environment. WOW, soil scientists definitely play a key role in
protecting our health and environment.

It seems
to me that Soil is pretty easy to ignore. We might notice it when gardening or
playing outdoors. But even when we forget about it, soil is always there,

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Soil microbes under a microscope

Most of what we see are mineral particles that we recognize as sand, silt, or clay. There is also plenty of water and air. But soil is also alive. It contains countless fungi and microbes. They help recycle dead and decaying matter by breaking down the remains of plants, animals, and other organisms. What if we could put on really cool goggles to see inside the soil, we would see an incredible microscopic world of fungi and bacteria? We need to talk about the bacteria in soil because they perform an incredible function. These bacteria are said to be symbiotic and are real helpers to the plants. These bacteria can convert nitrogen to ammonia, which the plants utilize for their development.  

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While soil science is fascinating, why are we talking about it now? Because World Soil Day is December 5, 2020. How do we celebrate World Soil Day, you might ask? The motto for World Soil Day is Keep soil alive and protect soil biodiversity! Plants nurture a whole world of creatures in the soil, that in return feed and protect the plants. This diverse community of living organisms keeps the soil healthy and fertile. This vast world constitutes soil biodiversity and determines the main biogeochemical processes that make life possible on Earth.

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It turns
out soil is a living resource, home to more than 25% of our planet’s
biodiversity. Interestingly, up to 90% of living organisms live or spend part
of their lifecycle in soils.

Next time
you take a break and go outside, or maybe spend a few minutes in your backyard,
reach down and take a good look at the soil. If you have a magnifying glass,
bring it outside with you. When you look at the soil use your imagination and
think about how many microorganisms there are in the soil, and how remarkably
busy they all are!

One way to
celebrate World Soil Day is to provide your soil with rich nutrients like those
found in compost! Check out our at-home science experiment, Compost in a Cup!
Grab your supplies & celebrate soil!

Lesson Plan:





For the month of May, we are going to learn how beneficial, interesting, and easy composting can be!  You may ask yourself: what is composting or why is it important? You may also question why we need compost at all? We are going to explore the science behind composting and discover what a useful resource it is! Lastly, we will share exactly how you can make your own compost at home.

What comes to mind when you hear the word, “compost”? Compost is decayed organic matter, which includes a wide range of materials, such as sticks, banana peels, egg shells, coffee grinds, fruits, and vegetables.  Compost does not contain animal products such as meat, fish, butter, cheese, milk, or other fats.  Compost forms naturally and is everywhere! For example: leaves and grass are two organic materials that “break down” or decompose. The rich, dark brown, crumbly soil-like material that results is compost!

Tiny micro-organisms like bacteria, actinobacteria, fungi, Protozoa, and rotifers assist with “breaking down” organic materials to form compost. Earthworms also aid in the conversion of organic materials into compost by ingesting the partially decomposed material. Earthworms aerate the compost by making holes and tunnels too.

Now that you know what compost is, why do you think it is so important? What are its benefits? Composting is a wonderful way for us to help the environment. When trash goes to a landfill, it emits methane gas, a greenhouse gas, that contributes to climate change.  By composting, we reduce this methane gas as well as produce a rich soil that can be used as fertilizer.  Farmers use fertilized soil to increase crop yield.  It retains water better than plain soil thus allowing farmers and gardeners to grow more food with less water. Also, soils that contain lots of decomposed organic matter, like compost, can store more food (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, sulfur, and calcium) for the plants to eat.  Composting can help save money on mulch, landscaping bills, trash/disposal services, and can even lower your water bill! How cool is compost?!

One of the best parts about composting is that you can make it right at home! There are so many different items that you can add to your compost pile. You want to make sure that your compost includes a mixture of “green” (Nitrogen heavy) materials and “brown” (Carbon heavy) materials like newspaper, card board, and dead plants.  Be sure to allow your compost pile to have access to sun, shade, movement, and add one tablespoon of water daily.  It will take some time for your pile to turn into soil, but you should notice a change within a few weeks!

Did you ever imagine that compost could be so exciting?  Its significance and benefits make it something fun!  Not only can it serve as mulch, but it can be mixed into soil to make very strong fertilizer! Composting helps save the environment and can even save your family some money. So, what are you waiting for?  Encourage and educate your household on its importance and start composting today!