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A Little Dirt Never Hurt

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Dirt, better known in agriculture as soil, is a structure held together by a network of roots and a media plants sustain life from. Last week, children from the Communities in Schools program learned more about agriculture through the eyes of a soil scientist. The lessons where taught by none other than us, the eight bright Summer Scholars and our creative minds. Who knew you could have so much fun teaching grade school children about the exciting adventures of soil?

Trust me, it can be quite difficult to capture the imagination of an 11-year-old, keep their interest as you drone on about dirt and plants, all while it's 89 degrees outside with the sun on their backs. Luckily, my fellow summer scholar Hope and I had a moment of genius. We decided to spice up our soils lesson with tasty dirt cups.

Dirt cups were always a specialty in the Snyder household made only on certain occasions. Funny how my childhood treats would help me later in life to teach children about the many soil profiles and formations.

scholars show students how soil works

Hope and I spent hours slaving over a bowl of chocolate pudding and crumbled Oreo cookies, working tirelessly throughout the night. It actually only took about an hour but they were the most beautifully, crafted dirt cups I've ever seen. We displayed three soil profiles A, B and R or topsoil, organic/parent material and bedrock. We used graham crackers to represent the bedrock with its varying sizes of rock. The chocolate pudding resembled the mix of organic/parent material and the area where roots get their nutrients. On top, finally came the crumbled Oreo bits for our topsoil.

The students were beyond ecstatic that they were getting a tasty treat. Little did I know a dreaded two letter phrase was going to hit these kids fast - sugar rush! Luckily, all the students hyped-up on sugar greeted Anna and Amanda with enthusiasm and eagerness to run around the field for a game of Predator and Prey!

Overall, the students were engaged in the soils lesson. I have been impressed by this group of bright and intelligent students with their ability to learn and apply their knowledge outside the classroom. I believe our generation is the future of the agriculture industry. Now more than ever we need students like the ones from the Communities in Schools program to be eager to learn more about their environment and food supply. It's encouraging to see these students have a greater understanding of where their food comes from. In the years to come, I'm sure many of these students will end up making a difference in the world.

I continue to learn something new every day here at the Noble Research Institute. I'm sure I'll have a notebook full of ideas and concepts before the summer is through. As Richard P. Feynman said, "Study hard what interests you the most in the most undisciplined, irreverent and original manner possible."

Until next time,

Arika Snyder is a 2013 Lloyd Noble Scholar in Agriculture from Lewistown, Pa.