Eating Dirt?

The more I get into gardening and growing food, the more interested I get about soil. As you know, I’m pretty pumped about composting! Discovering more about the creatures that make up the living part of the soil is also super fascinating, and I’m looking to learn more. But simply exploring the basic parts of soil is pretty interesting too.

A couple of weeks ago, we did a soil studies lesson with some grade 2s and 3s. We started by exploring the different components of soil (sand, silt, clay and organic matter/compost), feeling samples and discussing the importance of the different parts (e.g. sand helps that the soil has some air in it and doesn’t get too compact, clay holds onto some water, compost feeds the plants, etc). We then went outside to the garden and schoolyard and took some soil samples from different areas which we predicted would have different soil types. After the kids has observed the samples they took, we put soil from each different location into a different jar, added some water, and then shook it up! Once we were back in class, we put the jars on a table and let them sit and settle, so we could observe the different components and their ratios in the soil samples. Here’s what they looked like:

The soil samples.

The soil samples.

 

The soil sample from the pile of soil we had delivered a few weeks ago.

The soil sample from the pile of soil we had delivered a few weeks ago.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I did this same lesson a few weeks earlier at Withrow. There the teacher had also gotten some soil sieves, which have layers with different mesh sizes – another way to determine the amounts of the different soil components. I haven’t used those sieves much yet, but something to look into.

A week or two after doing the soil experiement with the grade 2/3s at Blake, I decided it was time to make something edible with them. I’ve worked with this class a lot all year and some of them have been asking to make something to eat, so I figured it was time to make FoodShare’s Dirt Dip. We started with a quick review of the soil lesson we’d done a couple of weeks earlier, and then it was food time! This dip uses different foods to represent different soil components: corn represents sand, refried beans are silt, cumin and salt are clay/tiny bits of minerals, cilantro leaves represent organic matter, and lime juice is water. And to get some air into our soil, we mixed it all up. The analogies were a bit abstract for the grade 2/3s, and there were some moments where there wasn’t something hands-on for each of them so they got a bit rowdy, but they really enjoyed making the dip and especially enjoyed eating it!

If anyone has any good soil resources (especially about soil life/biodiversity, aimed at adults or kids) to share, I’d love to hear from you!

Happy growing!

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