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Monday, March 19, 2018

Topeka Dual Language 3rd Graders Learn about Soils

     The Kansas NSF EPSCoR Microbiomes of Aquatic, Plant and Soils Systems Across Kansas (MAPS) outreach initiative directed at teaching elementary science visited Scott Elementary in Topeka, Kansas to teach 3rd grade students about soil composition.  Scott Dual Language Magnet Elementary teaches all science and social studies curriculum in Spanish. Dr. Peggy Schultz, MAPS Outreach Specialist, worked closely with two of Scott's 3rd grade teachers, Ms. Teresa Cotton and Ms. Yesinea Moroyoqui-Ponce, to identify key vocabulary as well as address the curriculum requirements of the 3rd grade Next Generation Science Standards as it related to soil composition. Students in the four 3rd grade science classes at Scott consisted of both native Spanish speakers and native English speakers.  In order to maximize understanding of the lesson's content, students work together to translate and teach the science material to each other in their native languages.
     Dr. Schultz also worked with Mrs. Tita Soberon, an education specialist, to translate the hands-on 3rd grade soils lesson from English into Spanish.  Mrs. Claudia Nunez-Penichet, a prospective University of Kansas Biology graduate student, and Ms. Laura Jimenez, a current University of Kansas PhD candidate, joined the team to facilitate small group discussions and lead hands-on experiments.  Both women are native Spanish speakers.

Mrs. Tita Soberon, Ms. Laura Jimenez and Ms. Claudia Nunez-Penichet facilitating inquiry based experiments in soil composition.

     Students smashed rocks, studied fossils, sifted and measured soil particles, and discovered the many components that make up complex soil.  Their final experiment involved testing the hypothesis: Will a plant grow best in sandy soil or complex soil?  After making predictions, students planted seeds in each type of soil. Their experimental plants were then transported back to the KU Greenhouse so that they could receive appropriate and equal care.  Students will make observations and conclusions regarding the plants when the team returns at the end of March. This was the second lesson taught at Scott Elementary.  The first lesson involved understanding tropic levels and a third lesson is planned to teach about biomes at the end of March.

Education and outreach funding is provided by the Kansas NSF EPSCoR RII Track-1 Award OIA-1656006 titled: "Microbiomes of Aquatic, Plant, and Soil Systems across Kansas."  The grant's educational objectives are designed to enhance STEM education in Kansas by supporting activities that will lead to an expanded STEM workforce or prepare a new generation for STEM careers in the areas of aquatic, plant and soil microbiome environments and ecological systems.