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Soil Does More Than Get You Dirty - Preface

Dedicated to Dr. Orville W. Bidwell

This booklet is dedicated to Dr. Orville W. Bidwell, Professor Emeritus at Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas. His lifetime of hard work and dedication to teaching soils and soil science included a leading role in the establishment of Harney silt loam as the Kansas State Soil.

Dr. Bidwell received his Ph.D. from Ohio State University in 1949. In 1950 he began a career in soils that spanned over thirty years in the Department of Agronomy at Kansas State University, retiring in June 1984. During his career, he received numerous honors and awards that included Fellows from American Association for the Advancement of Science, Soil Conservation Society of America, American Society of Agronomy, and Soil Science Society of America.

Dr. Bidwell was dedicated to the education of Kansans and others about our soil resource. He wanted everyone�from students to homeowners to farmers to government planners and others�to be knowledgeable about their soil. To help accomplish this, he collected and mounted over 250 soil profile monoliths, was active in Soil Survey education-distribution meetings in 35 counties, originated the Natural Resource Management Club at Kansas State University in 1970, and created and published quarterly the Agronomy Department Newsletter for two thousand alumni.

Dr. Bidwell passed away on June 5, 2006.

September 1992
Revised April 1996
Revised April 1998
Revised June 2008


Each year the children of Kansas become further removed from the farm atmosphere due to a variety of circumstances, none of which they have any control. More and more families are located in urban setting, both parents are working outside the home, and fewer families have a garden nor the time to work in one. This means that our children have had very little experience in the real world of tilling soil. When children from Kindergarten to Grade 6 were asked where do you find soil, the following responses were given.

  • "You buy it at the store, but don't forget, you have to pay for it (soil)!"
  • "If you dig down far enough, I think you will find it (soil)."
  • "If you go out in our backyard, lift up the old gate that has fallen down, I think you will find it (soil)."
  • "Can you find it in a pot that has a plant in it?"
  • "I think there is some of it (soil) under our school."

These common misconceptions about where soil is found, as well as what we find in soil and how is made will be addressed in the lesson plans that follow. These lessons have been trial tested and revised. Of course, you as the teacher will be the best judge of which activities will be most appropriate for your children.

The lessons have been divided into those lessons found to work really well with young children K-2 and lessons for more advanced children.

Our thanks to Twyla Sherman, assistant professor, College of Education, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, Wichita State University, Wichita, Kansas, for her dedication in the writing and editing of these materials. Each year, she uses these materials to acquaint teachers with the importance of our valuable resource soil.

Your comments and additions would be happily accepted. Please let us hear from you as you try these activities with your classes.

Natural Resources Conservation Service
U. S. Department of Agriculture
760 S. Broadway
Salina, Kansas 67401

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