As global issues such as climate change and food security continue to place increasing demands on our soil, bringing attention to this important resource is becoming more and more critical. Providing effective education in soil science will increase awareness of the key role that soil plays in environmental sustainability and social issues. UBC masters student Darrell Hoffman is taking on the task of making soil science education more accessible and engaging for students, researchers and educators everywhere.
Hoffman, supervised by Dr. Maja Krzic, is working with a team of web designers, educators and soil science experts to develop a web-based tool to promote soil science education. The project team also included Dr. Margaret Schmidt (Simon Fraser University), Saeed Dyanatkar, Tom Scott, Kirk Karasin, Claire Roan (all UBC Digital Media Technologies), Chris Crowley (CTLT), Dr. Les Lavkulich (LFS), Dr. Samson Nashon (Faculty of Education, UBC), and Shirley Ho (freelance graphic designer).
The Forest Floor Tool will complement campus-based learning by helping students learn to complete basic descriptions and classifications of the forest floor. This tool is part of the Virtual Soil Science Learning Resources website led by Dr. Krzic, that produced a larger body of learning resources designed to enhance soil science education in Canada.
According to Hoffman, an effective way to engage people in soil science is to take advantage of today’s digital media technology. “If we can make soil science visible by putting it online and making it more attractive I think it’s likely that more students will give soil science more consideration,” says Hoffman.
The Forest Floor Tool will be ready for the upcoming spring session of the APBI 200 – Introduction to Soil Science course, where it will supplement a lab section and be evaluated by students.
This push for innovations in soil science education coincides with the recent declaration by the UN and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of 2015 as the International Year of Soils. This declaration reinforces the key role of healthy soil in a sustainable future and the far-reaching impacts of soil science to various environmental and social issues. To meet the goals of the International Year of Soils, soil science educators must continue to reach out, innovate and rethink courses and curriculum.
–By Charlotte Bushnell-Boates