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Soil tunnel peaks student curiosity in Blount County

By Mark Butler, Dry Creek Watershed Coordinator, Blount County, Alabama


Soil Tunnel constructed by Blount County
Students were allowed to crawl through the Soil Tunnel.

“What’s That?” was the most commonly asked question as the first graders of Cleveland Elementary School came into the classroom. “That” being a soil tunnel, which was built through the joint efforts of Blount County SWCD/NRCS employees. District employees Polly Morris, Mark Butler, and volunteer Nicholas Butler presented the soil tunnel to students.

To go along with the soil tunnel there was a presentation of the lesson “How Much Soil Is There?” The lesson uses an apple to represent the earth, and its skin the earth’s surface. After cutting away the parts of the apple that represent water and unusable dry lands all that is left is the skin of about 1/16 of the apple. This represents the usable land area we depend on for the world’s food supply. This fragment competes with all other needs such as housing, cities, schools, hospitals, shopping centers, landfills, etc. etc. And, sometimes, it doesn’t win. The purpose of this lesson is to show the students why it is so important to protect our soils through conservation.

After the lesson the students were allowed to crawl through the soil tunnel with the aid of a flash light to see a sample of what is below their feet. The goal of the soil tunnel is to educate children about five important functions of soil. When all the students crawled through the tunnel they named everything that was inside the tunnel. After naming everything inside the soil tunnel they discussed which of the following functions of soil they belonged in:

  1. Habitat for organisms (rabbit, bugs, insects, snakes, rats, groundhog, ants, scorpions, fox, and bees)

  2. Water purification (septic tank, water table, and well)

  3. Waste recycling (leaves)

  4. Medium for plant growth (roots)

  5. Materials for humans to use (gravel miner)

The presentation concluded with discussing conservation practices that will help preserve our natural resources for future generations.

For more information about the soil tunnel and how to request a demonstration, contact the Blount County SWCD/NRCS office at 205-274-2363 extension 3.