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What sparked your interest in soil organisms?   

  • Was it a magical moment watching one in its natural habitat?
  • A research project for a class?
  • Or maybe a teacher who shared her passion for soil life with you? 

Whatever the reason, those who know about the wonders of soil organisms also know that everyone should know about the fascinating underground world too. How can we best help people learn about the unique creatures of soil and their value for humans? That’s the exciting question that the GSBI’s Soil Biodiversity Education Group seeks to answer.

Our overall mission is to advocate for and enable increased education of all people about soil biodiversity. To support this goal, the group will:

  • Articulate a vision for using soil organisms to achieve diverse educational goals
  • Collect soil biodiversity educational resources (for all levels and contexts: K-12, higher ed., informal, outdoor, etc.) to create a clearing house on the GSBI website
  • Foster collaboration on the development of new soil biodiversity educational resources
  • Review and summarize contemporary pedagogical research, theories and approaches that can inform effective teaching about soil biodiversity
  • Engage teachers to identify their perspectives about and needs for integrating soil biodiversity into their curricula and lessons

The seeds of this education group were first planted at the First Global Soil Biodiversity Conference in Dijon, France in December 2014. For this meeting, Dr. Loren Byrne (Roger Williams University, USA) organized a soil ecology education session that included 11 presentations about soil biodiversity education efforts from around the world (listed below). The session included diverse ways that soil biologists can engage people to learn about soil organisms: from simple hands-on demonstrations to field work, from card games to children’s stories and songs.

In addition, preliminary reviews of the scientific literature have revealed wonderful ideas about how educators can engage students with pedagogy that focuses on soil biodiversity. Some of these articles are listed below but surely there is more available that needs to be compiled in one place.  

Resources

Teaching Inspiration

Click the link above for playing cards, coloring books and other activities for teaching children about soil biodiversity. 

Soil Education Publications

Byrne, L. B., R.K. Thiet, and V. B. Chaudhary. 2016. Pedagogy for the Pedosphere. Frontiers in Ecology & Environment 14: 238-240. pdf available here

Andrews, S. E., S.D. Frey. 2015. Studio Structure Improves Student Performance in an Undergraduate Introductory Soil Science Course. Natural Sciences Education 44: 60-68.

Bruns, Mary Anne, Loren Byrne. 2004. Scale model of a soil aggregate and associated organisms: A teaching tool for soil ecology. Journal of Natural Resources and Life Science Education 33: 85-91. pdf available here

Byrne, Loren. 2013. An in-class role-playing activity to foster discussion and deeper understanding of biodiversity and ecological webs. EcoEd Digital Library. pdf available here

Hoyt, Catherine, Matthew Wallenstein. 2011. Soil Respiration and Student Inquiry: A Perfect Match. Science Activities 48: 119-128.

Johnson, E. A., K. M. Catley. 2009. Urban soil ecology as a focal point for environmental education. Urban Ecosystems 12: 79-93.

Krzic, M., A. A. Bomke, M. Sylvestre, S.J. Brown. 2015. Teaching Sustainable Soil Management: A Framework for Using Problem-Based Learning. Natural Sciences Education 44: 43-50.

Magee, Paula A., Elisha Wingate. 2014. Using Inquiry to Learn about Soil: A Fourth Grade Experience. Science Activities 51: 89-100.

Phillips, Marianne, Julie Vowell. 2013. Soil, Seeds, and the Pumpkin Patch! Science Activities: 50: 54-61.a

Stoeber, Rodelyn, Fernand Saurette, Daniele Dubois-Jacques, Deny Gravel. 2010. The use of the microcomposter to study the dynamics of a mini-ecosystem. Science Activities 47: 15-21.
 

Contact

If you'd like to join the GSBI Education Group, want more information or have resources that you can share, please contact Dr. Loren Byrne (lbyrne”@”rwu.edu) or the GSBI (info@globalsoilbiodiversity.org).
 

List of presentations from the Soil Ecology Education Session at the First Global Soil Biodiversity Conference, Dijon, France, December 2014

A happy families game on soil biodiversity
Tiphaine Chevallier1, C. Guellier2, E. Blanchart1, J. Sapijanskas3, A. Bispo2, D. Chirpaz1, C. Chenu4, D. Arrouays5
1IRD, 2ADEME, 3Ministère de l'Ecologie, 4AgroParisTech, 5AFES, All of France

Zizare Earthworm Lab: Soil ecology education at preschool
Oreina Orrantia1, Begoñe Alkorta2, Isabel Renedo2, Esther Iparraguirre1   
1University of the Basque Country, 2Maestro García Rivero Preschool and Primary Education School, Spain

A K-12 activity using a homemade centrifuge to explore soil biodiversity
Sarah Emery 
University of Louisville, USA

"Don Erasmo's milpa": a short story about the below-ground of indigenous polycultures in Mexico  
Simoneta Negrete-Yankelevich   
Red de Ecología Funcional, INECOL, Mexico        

Can soil organisms become our best teachers? Exploring soil biodiversity as an ecosystem service provider of excellent environmental education
Loren Byrne  
Roger Williams University, USA                 

Integrating the complexity of soil with interactive games: The soil web and the black box Isabelle Barois, Eduardo Aranda-Delgado  
Instituto de Ecología, Xalapa, Mexico   

Sharing knowledge about worms and aggregates on the trans-Amazonian highway
Patrick Lavelle         
Institut de recherche pour le développement, France

Using soil monoliths to teach soil ecology
Karen Vancampenhout      
KU Leuven, Belgium

The ECOTROP field-school: integrating DNA barcoding into an education program for the census of soil invertebrate biodiversity in Lopé National Park, Gabon
Thibaud Decaens and the ECOTROP team         
Université de Rouen, France   

Enhancing soil biology education through service-learning and community engagement
Julie Grossman       
University of Minnesota, USA

A masterclass to train extension workers on best management practices for soil biodiversity Marjoleine Hanegraaf       
Nutrient Management Institute, Netherlands