InTeGrate Modules and Courses >A Growing Concern: Sustaining Soil Resources through Local Decision Making
 Earth-focused Modules and Courses for the Undergraduate Classroom
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These materials are part of a collection of classroom-tested modules and courses developed by InTeGrate. The materials engage students in understanding the earth system as it intertwines with key societal issues. The materials are free and ready to be adapted by undergraduate educators across a range of courses including: general education or majors courses in Earth-focused disciplines such as geoscience or environmental science, social science, engineering, and other sciences, as well as courses for interdisciplinary programs.
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Summary

Educating undergraduates about soil sustainability is central to our agricultural future. Soil erosion outpaces soil production and soil management is key. This teaching module provides undergraduates with activities that explore controls on soil formation and soil erosion in an applied context. Undergraduates examine the differences between landscapes and soil properties in intensively managed agricultural settings (e.g. grazelands, conventional tillage) and "natural" (forested or prairie) landscapes. Using hands-on activities, students develop a working knowledge of how our agricultural management practices influence soil properties. They examine soil profiles and spatial figures to make connections. This soil teaching module culminates with a project centered on making sustainable management decisions under global climate change.

Strengths of the Module

Undergraduates explore soil erosion challenges in the context of agricultural land management and climate change. Soil erosion and solutions are explored through an active learning environment (e.g. physical modeling, think-pair-share, and jigsaw exercises), encouraging critical thinking and reflection. The entire process requires that students develop interdisciplinary thinking skills to synthesize how soil erosion relates to land management decision-making.

Students investigate the basic interactions between Earth's spheres, a key component of which is the positive feedback between agricultural practices and the sustainability of soil as a vital resource. They apply systems thinking as they consider how predicted changes in climate will impact soil sustainability in their local area.

Students challenge their conceptual models about soil erosion and sustainability through the use of real-world geoscientific data, both data they generate and data gathered from existing USGS and USDA databases. In the process, they develop data collection and analysis skills and the ability to access existing data using technology tools.

Students gain an understanding of the nature and methods of geoscience through building observational skills, using charts to characterize soil samples, and working with geospatial data to understand how humans alter geologic rates of change. Geoscientific habits of mind will grow through working with authentic data and translating scaffolded knowledge into decision-making as students take on the role of agricultural "experts."

A great fit for courses in:

  • Intro Geology
  • Intro Environmental Science
  • Intro Soil Science
  • Interdisciplinary Courses
  • Sustainability Courses
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These materials have been reviewed for their alignment with the Next Generation Science Standards. At the top of each page, you can click on the NGSS logo to see the specific connections. Visit InTeGrate and the NGSS to learn more about the process of alignment and how to use InTeGrate materials to implement the NGSS.

NGSS in this Module

The users of this soils and agriculture module completed this module within most courses within a two-week period. It is designed to build content while engaging students in a few practices and crosscutting concepts. There are no particular performance expectations completely addressed within this unit, although the content will assist students in building proficiency towards performance expectations around human impacts on our Earth system.


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These materials are part of a collection of classroom-tested modules and courses developed by InTeGrate. The materials engage students in understanding the earth system as it intertwines with key societal issues. The collection is freely available and ready to be adapted by undergraduate educators across a range of courses including: general education or majors courses in Earth-focused disciplines such as geoscience or environmental science, social science, engineering, and other sciences, as well as courses for interdisciplinary programs.
Explore the Collection »