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Get the dirt on soils! Teaching soil science to the public…

Written by Ben Newsome on March 30th, 2015.      0 comments

Well it’s April again and the Sydney Royal Easter Show swings into high gear as people descend into Sydney Olympic Park from far and wide. This year we have teamed up with the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW to bring soil science to the masses, plus run some school hands-on workshops and video conferences to boot! This is such an important topic as the understanding of how soils work is critical for effective farm and environmental management and we were very happy to put this together!

When constructing the workshops our prime motivation was to consider how to best represent 21st century agricultural practices whilst keeping the hands-on materials accessible to people aged 3 to 99 years old plus staying true to the science. In most cases the simplest solution is often the best, where in each hands-on station the considerations are robustness, repeatability, relevance, safety and being technically accurate.  Of course, the materials had better be fun to use!

This year our focus was upon;
  • soil erosion
  • soil texture
  • soil salinity
  • soil pH
  • soil horizons
  • worm farms
  • soil water holding capacity
Sieving soils for texture
With this in mind each station was designed to fit in 1 metre spaces, with participants being able to work independently using the signage or alternatively being guided by one of our educators. Opportunities for additional learning was embedded amongst the worksheets and each station had could be made relevant to people’s own gardens in the city through to what is happening on the land.  With the help of Sydney Olympic Park Authority and NSW Distance and Rural Technologies we also ran a educational video conference connection to schools in western NSW. Sessions will continue daily throughout the Sydney Royal Easter Show and the lesson will be added to the growing suite of science workshops that schools can use for science enrichment.

The development of the soil workshop continues the exciting trend for Fizzics in working with large entities to co-deliver science outreach. Sharing expertise between organisations for educational delivery can only benefit the students as the workshops become richer in detail and more relevant to the curriculum. Plus each new collaboration brings fresh challenges! Lots of fun :)

All the best!


Ben Newsome
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Soil horizon development station


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