Posted by: Kirsten | Thursday, 31 July 2008

Make Tracks to a New Smithsonian Exhibit on Soils

Dig It!  The Secrets of Soil

Now though January 2010 you’ll find a highly interactive and eye opening exhibit on soils.  Soils?!  Ewwww. That sounds boring, Mom!  Well, think again young Dirtwalker.

Did you know there are more creatures in a shovelful of healthy soil than there are humans on the planet?  Has your brain just popped a gasket at the thought of trillions of tiny critters jockeying for space right there under the plants in your garden?

And not only is there a fantastic exhibit (did I mention it’s, umm, FREE?), there are also numerous online education resources for you to do pre- and post-work on the subject.

Just a few of the education links I could “dig up” in a few minutes of searching:

Speaking of the exhibits, here are the highlights from the Smithsonian Exhibit Fact Sheet:

  • In the “At Home in the World of Soils” gallery, visitors explore the connections between soil and culture. While we walk on soils every day, we rarely think about how soils affect our daily lives. This gallery explores these connections with a scale model of a typical suburban house lot that highlights soils in and around our homes. Nearby, an evocative video features soils as the “secret ingredients” in thousands of everyday items including medicine, food, fiber, paint, cosmetics, and pottery.
  • The “Underneath it All” gallery explores soils in a broader perspective. A large topographic model illustrates the role of soils in residential, urban, and agricultural areas. Touchable soil samples provide closeup looks of two very different urban soils found right here in Washington, D.C. Exhibit panels examine how soil management can help meet modern day demands for food production, infrastructure construction, and environmental protection.
  • “The Big Picture” area gives the global view, symbolized by a centrally-placed art sculpture depicting soils at the center of Earth’s water, nutrient, life, and carbon cycles. A world map and computer interactive stations highlight surprising global connections to soils. Nearby, the “Get Soil Savvy!” display uses dramatic images and video to explore the importance of soils in land management and conservation.
  • Curious visitors can also dig into life, death, and decay in the “Matters of Life and Death Theater,” where a ten-minute video follows an edgy detective story about the micro- and macroscopic soil food web. Outside the theatre, visitors learn more about how microorganisms that inhabit soils impact our planet. Visitors can activate two soil “breathalyzers” (infrared gas analyzers) and detect the amount of carbon dioxide produced by soil organisms in two very different environments.
  • In “Sizing Up Soils,” visitors will get the dirt on soils in an array of fun interactives and exhibition stations. A “Chef’s Challenge” kitchen features two flamboyant “soil chefs” who create two very different soils from the same ingredients. Visitors can find their “home earth” in a display of 54 soil samples, or “monoliths,” representing each state in the nation, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia. Visitors become soil detectives and use clues to deduce what landscapes three mystery soils support. Other interactives explore soil color, texture, particle size, and minerals.

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