Soil – It’s a Vital Natural Resource. You Dig?
Jan 04 2017
Consider life-sustaining resources. Air and water are often first to come to mind but a third one is right under our feet: soil. Our nation was founded by farmers that understood soil was our most important resource. They knew that their chief concern was to cultivate healthy soil, and healthy crops would follow. Soil provides us with a plethora of services that make life possible. Soil is where food begins. It captures and cleans our water. It can help mitigate climate change. Some scientists are even studying how soil can relieve depression and anxiety.
Taking Soil for Granted
Most of us don’t think about soil all that much. There’s dirt everywhere, right? But soil isn’t dirt. Dirt is dead, in contrast, soil is full of life. There are about a billion microbes in one teaspoon of healthy soil. Just like any other natural resource, we shouldn’t take soil for granted. The Dust Bowl of the 1930s reminded us of this reality. As a result of that disaster, the Soil Conservation Service was founded to protect our nation’s soil resources.
“A nation that destroys its soil, destroys itself.” Franklin D. Roosevelt
Soil seems to be coming back to the forefront of environmental issues. In 2014, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization celebrated the first annual “World Soil Day” on December 5th. The following January 1st marked the start of the UN International Year of Soils. Even 2016, the International Year of Pulses, highlighted legumes for, among other things, their ability to restore soils. You see a trend?
Here in the United States, the White House announced new efforts to “advance soil sustainability” in December of 2016. Dust storms are not unheard of these days, especially with the persistent drought out west. We don’t want to head into another dust bowl era. Continual and expanded efforts to protect and enrich our soils are key. So is bringing up young citizens that understand soil as a vital natural resource.
Bringing It to the Classroom
Here in DuPage County, many schools are starting school gardens and lunchroom composting programs. Both are great opportunities to connect students with the importance of nourishing our soil. Composting, in our school gardens, at home, and on our farms, has huge potential to protect our soil while also saving landfill space.
There are many resources for teachers that want to educate their students about soil.
- Soil Science Society of America: resources for K-12 teachers and students
- From the Ground Up: The Science of Soil offers middle school teachers resources and career connections
- Soil-Net lots of info for teachers – based in the UK so a European bent to their info
- SCARCE educates students and teachers about the importance of our soil through our interactive composting and watershed programs and trainings
- Explore soil with these activities outlined on Kids Discover
- Soil Portal of the United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization detailed info on critical soil issues
- Click on the images below to download posters on soil and compost from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance