April 25, 2018
By Mary Johns
Fourth-graders create works of art with mud and paint during Geneva County’s first Soil Day Festival. Left: Students learn to identify fertile and infertile soils.
Most people look at a pile of dirt and see just that — dirt. But teacher Ginger Boyd wanted her students to see more.
“Soil touches everything — our food, shelter and clothes,” said Boyd, who teachers fourth-grade science and math at Slocomb Elementary School (SES). “We have to make sure students learn this is not just dirt — it’s soil.”
Boyd is a two-time Alabama Ag in the Classroom (AITC) Summer Institute participant, and she attended the 2017 National AITC Workshop. From those experiences, Boyd was inspired to create Geneva County’s first Soil Day Festival for fourth-graders from the county’s four schools.
“AITC helped me realize I could work agriculture into my science lessons,” Boyd said. “Our last nine weeks is an earth science unit, and I wanted to kick it off with something related to soil. These students all know agriculture. Even if they don’t live on a farm, they can associate with it because they drive by farms.”
During the festival, over 200 students moved through 10 interactive stations. They painted with soil; drew soil layers; watched a machine take a soil sample; created a dessert with ingredients that represented soil layers; and learned to identify fertile and infertile soil.
“This is not just playtime out here,” said Suzanne Owens, the event’s co-coordinator who also teaches fourth-grade science at SES. “Through writing, drawing and explaining, they’re learning to appreciate the importance of soil.”
Boyd and Owens relied on volunteers from participating schools, Alabama Cooperative Extension System, AgriAFC and Alabama National Resources Conservation Service to staff the event. An AITC grant helped cover program costs.
“Along with free, online AITC resources, the mini-grant program is the perfect way for educators to fund innovative educational ideas,” said Kim Ramsey, Alabama Farmers Federation Women’s Division director and Alabama AITC Steering Committee chairman. “Ginger and Suzanne are proof that determination and passion can make a little funding go a long way.”
Boyd said she’s hopeful eight months of planning the Soil Day Festival will pay off.
“This event gives students tangible lessons so they can connect these activities with what we talk about in the classroom,” she said.
Visit AlabamaAITC.org for teacher and student resource links and applications. Mini-grant applications are due annually around Oct. 15, and Alabama AITC Summer Institute applications are due annually around April 15. n