Field Trips

Hands-on Soil and Plant Science Learning Experiences for Visiting K-12 Students

We have designed and implemented an interactive program whereby young students visiting Purdue University on field trips can experience plant and soil science and depart with a better appreciation for the role agriculture plays in their daily lives. Hands-on experiments introduce students to elementary soil science. Using their observation skills, students learn the importance of soil color and apply that information to determine soil age, native plant growth and drainage to aid in building construction. They tweak their sense of feel with soil texture and learn some uses of and the importance of clay and organic matter; importantly that soil has a magnetic charge. The concept of erosion is discussed in the formation of the state of Indiana during the last two ice ages. Soil monoliths are used to illustrate the geographic regions of the state. The monoliths also help the children understand the concept of time from a geological standpoint. Hands-on experiments are also used to show how erosion occurs, how the various components of soil move in water, and the benefits of using plants to prevent erosion.

As the students tour the Meig's Research Station the role of soil in wetlands, agricultural, and urban environments is discussed. Students learn how to find a wormhole and during their visit to the wetland they learn about various plants and animals and how they interact in the environment. Students visit vegetable plots, the apple orchard, and a vineyard as well as observe harvesting (fall) or cultivating and planting (spring).

Plant science is introduced through hands-on experiments using corn seed, starch gels, and iodine indicator. Students learn what an enzyme is and how it works using Lego TM blocks and jigsaw puzzles, and have the opportunity to see enzymes in action. We discuss the role enzymes play in seed germination and food digestion. Short experiments changing enzyme assay parameters will be implemented and charted. Food examples from grains, vegetables and fruits will be tested for the carbohydrate starch, and nutrient charts from products of these three groups will be examined. Students will taste the products of starch digestion and learn many ways industry uses these sugars in grocery products. We want to discuss with the students the differences in nutrient value between raw and processed foods.

If you have any questions please e-mail either Sherry Fulk-Bringman at sherryfb@purdue.edu or Suzanne Cunningham at scunningham@purdue.edu.

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