Fall is a great time to start amending soil, because it gives you all fall and winter to feed it and make adjustments gradually. This gives the soil time to adjust rather than shocking it. While you are making your leaf mulch and composting yard waste and pumpkin guts, why not bring the kids into the process? They can learn a lot from helping out, and you just might be sowing seeds for a lifetime love of gardening. Here are some fun learning activities to teach kids about soil and get some dirt under their fingernails.
1. Learn what soil’s made of. Kids are well-acquainted with dirt, but do they know what it is that’s smudged on their jeans and smushed under their fingernails? For that matter, do you know? This is a great breakdown of the composition of soil and how it affects your garden. The more you know, the better you’ll be able to help your kids learn.
2. See how your soil breaks down. If you’re planning this year’s garden, you’ll need to know what your soil composition looks like. And if you’re teaching your kids about it all, they’ll appreciate a visual. Plus, you’ll be letting them play in dirt and water, and that always wins you points.
3. Learn what soil really is. There are so many facets to soil science. I really like this soil breakdown for kids, and as a bonus, it’s part of a much larger site dedicated to learning about soil. Activities, printables, games, explanations…there’s a lot to discover here.
4. Center a study around soil. An initiative of Central Vermont developed a whole lesson plan on soil, and then offered it for free! If you really want to “dig” in without having to spend time mapping out how, this looks like an excellent resource.
1. Discover worms – more than just wiggly backyard friends. Even my most bug-phobic kid will come in with earthworms. I’m not sure what it is about them, but they intrigue kids. This will help them (and you) learn the worm’s role (outside of being one of the top 10 grossest things to find in a pocket).
2. Learn through observation. I’m a big fan of watching and learning. Kids are excellent at observing and asking questions, which is the root of science in the first place. Here’s how STEMmom observed worms with her kids.
3. Create an observation tower. Want to study worms without hunting for them in cold weather and frozen grounds? This genius worm observation tower brings the science inside.
4. More wormy resources. Here’s another resource collection for you, this one focusing on worms. Enjoy the activities!
Decay and Composting
1. Get started composting. “Doing” is sometimes the best way to engage learning. And don’t you need a good compost pile for spring, anyway? Here’s the basics of composting so that you can get started as a family and learning affair.
2. Watch soil erode. Kids like to know why they are doing things, and if I’m honest, so do I. This classic experiment shows how soil and plants work together, and what might make soil erode faster.
3. Have fun with compost! Who knew rotting, messy things would be so fun? …Yeah, your kids probably did. Here are some composting activities that you AND your kids should have fun with.
4. Study composting together. It turns out, there are lots of educational resources for soil health, composting, and recycling from local utilities. This is a great lesson plan called “Do the Rot Thing.” Enjoy it, and share any resources you might find locally, too!