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Digging into Dirt in Earth Explorers’ Club!

November 15, 2016
Written by: Sarah

During the month of October, the Big Kids dug into the muck and mud to explore the science of soil. After learning about rocks in September, we turned our magnifying glasses to the dirt to answer a few important — albeit messy — questions.

Question #1: How does water affect soil?

Carefully examining the soil with a magnifying glass.

To find an answer, I brought in an enormous bag of soil from my garden for the children to explore. The children dug in the dirt, buried objects, and used their magnifying glasses to take a closer look. Then, we got out the watering cans and added water to the soil. Some enjoyed pouring a little bit in at a time and mixing up their mud each step of the way; others dumped all of their water in right away and quickly asked for more! The kids noticed that the soil could not hold all of the water they were dumping into it. First the soil turned to mud; then, the mud turned into a flood! We finished off this messy class we the Robert Munsch classic Mud Puddle.

Question #2: What is soil made of?

To find our answer, first I took three buddies down to Charleston Park to examine its soil. Brooklynn, Ava, Josiah, and I left for our mission armed with some scientific tools: shovels, magnifying glasses, bags for our “soil samples”, and a whole lot of curiosity! The children probed the soil on the way down to the park with their shovels, finding that it was full of rocks, sticks, bugs, and dead grass.

Making a castle for worms at the Charleston Park sandpit.

When we arrived at the sand pit, Ava and Brooklynn carefully collected a sample while Josiah used the “big scoop” to build a mountain, which would later become a giant volcano. Ava tilled the soil to make a “castle for worms”, since it was raining and they would be looking for new homes that day.  Upon closer inspection, the kids found that the sand was just made up of “tiny rocks”, unlike the soil they’d examined on the way to the park.

Question 3: Why is soil important?

To help the children answer this question, I brought in a few special guests to our class…earthworms! The kids had a ball watching them wiggle through the dirt, picking them up with tweezers, and studying them up-close with magnifying glasses. They were amazed to find out that worms do indeed eat dirt, make tunnels for oxygen and water to flow, and improve it by digesting organic matter.

Over two classes, we watched a couple of videos courtesy of the Youtube Channel SciShow Kids, which prides itself in “exploring all those curious topics that make us wonder ‘why?’” After watching and discussing What’s the Dirt… on Dirt and Worms are Wonderful, the children concluded that we need dirt “to grow plants to eat” (Ava) and “to grow flowers” (Sylvie).

Studying the earthworms in Big Kids Club (before their untimely demise)!

Finally, we set about making a “worm farm” a.k.a. a jar of soil, sand, and organic matter for our worms to live in. After heaps of dirt and compost were scooped into the jar, the kids carefully added the earthworms. The worms seemed to take to their new home right away, digging tunnels and squirming their way down the side of the jar.

Sadly, only a couple of days later, after wondering aloud “what’s that smell?” I found our once-wiggly worms looking a lot like the compost they were supposed to be eating. I certainly learned a lesson here: all soil is not created equal! We’d added too much compost and the pH of our soil wasn’t hospitable to our worm-friends. RIP worms.

As the fall season wraps up, we find ourselves delving deeper into the mysteries of the planet in Earth Explorers’ Club. In the past couple of classes, we’ve learned about fossils and, of course, dinosaurs!

Join us Tuesday, November 22nd for a field trip to UBC’s Pacific Museum of Earth! There, we’ll check out the amazing OmniGlobe, examine the museum’s incredible collection of rocks and crystals, and take a look at a real dinosaur skeleton!

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