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NH Elementary Students Explore the Ground Beneath Their Feet with the Soil Tent Program

Students from Moharimet Elementary School (Madbury, NH) and Mast Way Elementary School (Lee, NH) got outside this fall to explore soils with the Soil Tent Program.Soil Tent Mural Panels

The Soil Tent is a traveling STEAM educational exhibit that combines hands-on GLOBE science activities centered around the pedosphere and a 10x10 pop-up tent with murals (image right) depicting students’ observations of their local soil ecosystems. The tent was developed by the NH GLOBE Program, the USDA Forest Service, and the Northern Arts Alliance.

Nate Blais and Joy O'BrienNate Blais and Joy O’Brien (image left), graduate students from the University of New Hampshire, along with Haley Wicklein (GLOBE Partner at the Leitzel Center at the University of New Hampshire) brought the soil activities to Moharimet school as part of their 4th grade Ecology Day on October 15, 2021. They were then joined by Jennifer Bourgeault (U.S. Country Coordinator) in bringing this programming to four Mast Way 4th grade classes, and one 1st grade class at the beginning of November. At both locations they collaborated with the schools' science specialist, Ellen Ervin, who worked with the teachers and school administration to organize the Tent visit and facilitated complementary soil activities in her classroom. 

Before the visit, students read the GLOBE Storybook ‘The Scoop on Soils’. Each class then spent 45 minutes outside learning about and exploring the soil in their local forest. Nate and Joy guided students in learning about the color and texture of soil horizons, and how the soils in NH are formed. Students used rulers, magnifying glasses, soil color books, a microscope, and were even able to try out augers, shovels and soil corers to dig their own soil samples. The visit was wrapped up inside the Tent, where students examined mural panels depicting soil in three different habitats.

Students explore soils with graduate student Joy Soil Tent First grader takes a soil core

Student measures soil depth“The Soil Tent experience provided our fourth graders with a window into what is going on below the ground,” said Ellen. “They were able to examine a soil core, use the soil color profile book to identify layers, look through a microscope and record their observations. They learned what soil is made of and how soil in different habitats may look different. This was a powerful experience for our students because they got to work outside in the forest alongside soil scientists who were able to encourage them to be curious and to notice, wonder, and learn about the soils right on their school grounds.”

Joy agreed. “I find the Soil Tent to be a beneficial tool that sparks curiosity in young students about soils in different ecosystems. It's so exciting to listen to the students interpret the images on the tent and with that I realized that I learn from them just as much as they learn from me. As a graduate student, it is very important to me that we educate young minds on the importance of soil and hopefully inspire some future soil scientists!”Soil Sample

And the students? Overwhelmingly their favorite part was using the “cool tools”, and they were surprised to find different colors in the soil. One student wrote “Soil is so awesome, I love how there are so many layers and that they are all different colors.” As the first-grade class took a last group picture inside the tent, one student yelled out “I want to be a soil scientist!”.


** The Soil Tent is available for NH schools to “check out” and comes with all materials needed to engage in the science activities. For more information on the Soil Tent and the accompanying science activities, please see the Soil Tent website or contact Haley Wicklein at usglobeoffice at gmail dot com.


The Soil Tent project was funded by a 2016 Youth Engagement grant from USDA Forest Service, Eastern Region/Northern Research Station.

News origin: United States of America