Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Project R.E.D. in Isabella County (22 September 2015)

I spent all day yesterday at a local Project R.E.D. event.

What is Project R.E.D.?

The R.E.D. in the name stands for Rural Education Day.  This is an event hosted by the local chapter of the Michigan Farm Bureau in locations around the state of Michigan.  This project is designed to expose 3rd and 4th grade students to various aspects of rural and farm life to which they may not have been exposed.

For these events, the Farm Bureau brigs in local experts to talk about various aspects of farming and natural resources.  Experts may be farmers, government employees, veterinarians, etc..  As an employee of the Isabella Conservation District, I was asked to come in and talk about soil.

Talking to students about soil types - photo by Leigha Shoaf

With the exception of a group of home-schooled students, the students that participated in the Isabella County Rural Education Day were 4th graders from schools in the Shepherd, Mt. Pleasant, and Beal City area.  I had worked with almost all of these students when they were in 3rd grade (and will visit most of their classrooms again later this year).

Students examining soil profiles - photo by Leigha Shoaf

Each group of students rotated through a series of stations, with only eleven minutes at each station.  At the conclusion of the eleven minutes, the horn on a semi-truck was sounded to indicate that it was time too rotate.

I missed this.  This student appears to be biting a lump of rock-hard clay - photo by Leigha Shoaf

Eleven minutes is not a long time.  It is barely enough time to give an introduction to soil, but because most of the students had already studied soils with me when they were in 3rd grade we were able to treat it as a review.  We talked about the various components that make up soil (minerals, organic matter, water, air, and microorganisms), the different different sizes of soil (sand, silt, and clay), and how the various combinations of those components and soil sizes either help or harm plant growth.  We also looked at soil profiles and handled samples of soil dug on site.

Explaining the properties of loamy soil - photo by Leigha Shoaf

I had a great time at this event and look forward to participating again in 2016.  Thanks to Leigha Shoaf for taking the photographs.  Leigha is an Outdoor Recreation major at Central Michigan University and is volunteering her time this semester to help me with classroom programs and gain some experience at the same time.

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