Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Young Scientists

"I found a clue!" said Chelsea, holding up a thumb-sized white seashell.  "I wonder if this soil came from the ocean."

This week Chelsea and her classmates are developing their skills as scientists.  Over the past few weeks they've learned the nitty-gritty about soil composition.  First we made soil smoothies where each ingredient represented a different soil component: Oranges for sand, strawberries for silt, blueberries for clay, and bananas for organic matter.  Next we explored different soils in the garden to determine the primary components of several samples.  Scholars learned that darker soils have more organic matter, smoother soils have more clay, and grittier soils have more sand.

Soil scientists hard at work
This week we're exploring soil's origins.  We learned that 10,000 years ago Southern Louisiana was all open water, with no land in sight.  Over several millennia soil eroded into the Mississippi River, traveling down its length before being deposited right here.  In other words, all of the soil around us is from somewhere else!

That's especially true of our garden, where most of our soil has only been around since LHA's renovation.  Our clay foundation was shipped in, while the soil we use for growing was either delivered or created right here through composting or lasagna layering.

Using a trowel and their senses of sight, smell and touch, third grade scholars searched for evidence and made inferences about our soil's origins.  Other than the shells, scholars also noticed horse manure, inferring that some of our soil comes from a farm or stables.

Scholars share observations and inferences
This year all of our K-3 classes parallel each grade's science and social studies curriculum.  Our goal is for scholars to make relevant and meaningful connections with classroom content during their time in the garden.

1st grade scholars searching for red wiggler worms
Scholars typically learn something in the classroom and then experience it hands-on in the garden the following week.  Other lessons have included using magnifying glasses to see the world from an ant's perspective, running a simple machines relay race as an experiment, and melting s'mores in a pizza-box solar oven to learn about heat absorption.  Yum!

Solar Oven S'mores!