The Acequia Agua Fria and River Source partnered with Reunity Resources and the Santa Fe Community Farm to create pathways for Engaging Youth in Soil Health in 2020, pivoting successfully to adapt to the “no new normal” experience of teaching and learning during the COVID pandemic. Some of the most significant changes to curriculum development include:
- Creating soil health test kits to loan for students to assess soil health at a control and a treatment plot near their own home (see picture of rope for soil hoop, water infiltrometer, pH test solution from purple cabbage, thermometer for soil and air temperature, and sunflower seeds for anticipatory project design by students for their treatment plot)
- Producing an educational video led by Luke who learns about soil health from Julianna Ciano (SF Community Farm) and others as he discovers the wonders of healthy soil (see below or follow this link https://youtu.be/7HEHgLUMnlk).
- Shaping brand new online learning experiences to also get the students away from computer screen, doing hands-on, soil science and making efforts to improve soil health. This included providing virtual, live field trips outdoors to assess and improve soil health.
River Source committed to working with 3 different schools in the original grant and yet we found this curriculum so engaging that we have decided to start using it with any of the schools we are working with thanks to a gift from an anonymous donor in the fall 2020. So far we have worked with several schools:
- Monte del Sol High ~ both the sustainability and the wildlife classes of Ty McCormick-Middleton
- El Camino Real Academy ~ the summer special session of students with Scott Shuker and the entire 8th grade with Katherine Bueler during the fall.
- Santa Fe Indian School ~ Community Chemistry students of Mark Ericson
- School on Wheels in Albuquerque ~ the science class of Kevin Kubica
- The May School ~ students of Kathy Hillock and Trudy Moon
- Penasco Middle and High ~ students of Mercela Cordova
We also worked with Dr. Wansoo Im to create the first participatory mapping application for healthy soils. We will be working with students in the coming months to begin populating this interactive, data sharing website for students to connect with other students doing soil health assessment and improvement. Go to http://www.immappler.com/healthysoil
New Mexico Department of Agriculture made this critical investment in this program along with funding from the NM State Legislature. We were assisted mightily by Isabelle Jenniches of the New Mexico Healthy Soil Working Group.
Aaron Miller and Logan Petersen, soil scientists for the USDA NRCS Soil Survey, helped teach several classes and made the learning very relevant to everyday lives of the students by sharing how they do work to study and improve soil health. And this work could not have happened with the amazing engagement and support of William Mee of Acequia Agua Fria.