The National 4-H Council and Monsanto are inviting students from five states across the Midwest to become soil sleuths and take on the Healthy Soils Carbon Soil Investigation Challenge. Part of the 2017 4-H Ag Innovators Experience activity, the Challenge engages youth to learn about soil health, sustainable environmental practices, and the need to be good stewards of the land.
The two-part, collaborative, hands-on program, developed by The Ohio State University, helps youth to not only discover the composition of soil, but also understand the impact of tilling soil and explore new ways to farm with less disruption to the soil ecosystem. Students in Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, and Ohio will have the opportunity to participate in the Healthy Soils Challenge.
In part one of the Challenge, youth will work in teams to discover what healthy soil looks like and conduct tests to determine the overall soil health. Once they reach a conclusion, teams recycle their soil sample in take-out potting containers and plant a package of seeds in ready-to-take-home containers.
The second part of the challenge focuses on finding a solution to keep good soils from going bad. Using tiny robots that react to their environment, teams will design, build, and test a 1:64 scale no-till planter that disrupts the least amount of soil when planting, minimizes equipment drag, and reduces soil compacting. By the end of the activity, youth will understand how properly maintained soil can help reduce agriculture’s carbon footprint.
“As we face a world population that will exceed 9 billion by 2050, the agriculture industry has a real challenge to feed a growing number of people while protecting our finite environmental resources,” said National 4-H Council President and CEO Jennifer Sirangelo. “Today’s youth will play a critical role in future agriculture innovation. The ability to apply critical thinking and problem-solving skills, such as those needed for the Healthy Soils Challenge, will be imperative to address real-world issues.”
The 4-H AIE seeks to help youth develop workforce skills and drive innovation using science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). In three years, the program has already engaged nearly 25,000 youth and succeeded in making STEM concepts relevant and fun with activities across select states in the Midwest.
“Monsanto is excited to continue our longstanding partnership with the National 4-H Council for the Ag Innovators Experience,” said Mark Martino, National 4-H Council board member and Vice President, Global Crop Protection Supply Chain Operations for Monsanto Company. “Activities like the Healthy Soils Challenge help educate young people about real-world challenges and explore sustainable agriculture solutions through STEM-focused activities. Programs like the Ag Innovators Experience provides young people the analytical and leadership skills needed to develop into the leaders of tomorrow.”
The Healthy Soils Challenge will take place from March – July 2017 at various sites, including traditional 4-H clubs, 4-H camps, school enrichment, and 4-H Afterschool settings.