The Properties of Soil

Soil Properties—We Dig Dirt!

This week it may have looked like we had a great time playing with dirt, but we were actually studying soil! Our young soil scientists investigated different soils to determine which would be good for tomato plants to grow in.

First, students observed color of their soil samples. Soil colors relate to what is in the soil, for instance, dark brown and black soils tend to contain lots of broken down organic material. Students also observed the texture of the soils, noting that some soils contain smaller particles than others. Finally, students measured field capacity, which tells us how well soils can hold water. All of these factors (color, texture, and water retaining ability) are important in determining how good a soil might be for growing plants. Have your student help you look more closely at the soil in your own yard or park!

We need to protect our soil because it is important to every living organism on earth. Healthy soil allows plants to grow, and plants are essential to life along our entire food chain. Soil also helps filter out impurities (e.g., acid rain, industrial wastes) before they can reach our water supplies. The Extension activity illustrates the filtering abilities of soil using dark colored grape Kool-Aid. Give it a try with your student and prepare to appreciate our soils even more!

Características del Suelo: ¡jugando con tierra!

Esta semana lo pasamos excelente ¡jugando con tierra! Es importante aclarar que los científicos se refieren a lo que llamamos coloquialmente “tierra”, como “suelo”.  Nuestros jóvenes científicos investigaron diversos tipos de suelo para luego determinar cuál sería el mejor suelo para crecer tomates.

Primero, los estudiantes observaron el color de sus muestras de suelo. Analizaron las diferencias entre los tipos de suelo y fueron capaces de relacionar el color del suelo con respecto a sus contenidos. Por ejemplo, las tierras de color café y negras generalmente contienen material orgánico descompuesto. Los estudiantes también apreciaron las diferentes texturas de los tipos de suelo; ciertos tipos contienen partículas más pequeñas que otros. Finalmente, los alumnos examinaron si las muestras de suelo eran capaces de absorber agua. Todos estos factores (color, textura y habilidad para absorber agua) son muy importantes a la hora de determinar si el suelo está en las condiciones adecuadas para el cultivo de plantas. Haga que su hijo o hija le ayude a examinar el suelo de su propio patio o parque.

Necesitamos proteger nuestro suelo porque es sumamente importante para cada organismo de nuestro planeta. Un suelo sano favorece el crecimiento de las plantas, las cuales a su vez son fundamentales para la vida a lo largo de toda nuestra cadena alimentaria. El suelo también ayuda a filtrar las impurezas (como la lluvia ácida y los desechos industriales) antes de que éstas lleguen a nuestros suministros de agua. En la actividad de extensión, los estudiantes podrán observar la habilidad del suelo para filtrar impurezas, usando jugo en polvo de color oscuro (Koolaid de uva). Los invitamos a realizar la actividad de extensión con su hija o hijo y así aprendemos a apreciar nuestro suelo un poco más!

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Dr. Maureen Griffin

Maureen earned a Ph.D. in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania in 2003. While at Penn, she developed a novel micro-mechanical technique called micropipette peeling to investigate the role of muscle cell adhesion in normal and diseased skeletal muscle cells. After graduating, Maureen worked full time as a post-doctoral researcher and then a staff scientist a SelectX Pharmaceuticals. She joined the teaching staff in 2008 and was excited to be made an executive staff member in 2009. Maureen also continued to consult part time for SelectX until her daughter's birth in 2009; now she is focused on Science from Scientists and, of course, her children. Maureen uses her spare time to read, blog, cook, and renovate her house.

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