Agricultural Students Participated as Volunteers with the Earth Team Bringing Hands-On Experiential Learning Activities to the Classroom
June 4, 2018 – Soil quality is an essential component to the sustainability of food and fiber production. It is also vital for clean air and water, livestock grazing, and many other functions that support life as we know it and for future generations. Undergraduate students in the College of Agriculture and Human Sciences (CAHS) on the pursuit of a degree in Agriculture enjoyed valuable hands-on experiences this spring participating in the Earth Team Volunteer (ETV) Program — helping them appreciate the value of classroom lectures in soil health and conservation. This opportunity was created as part of a collaborative venture between Prairie View A&M University and the Natural Resources Conservation Service, one of the 17 agencies of the United States Department of Agriculture.
The Principal Investigator for the project, Dr. Richard W. Griffin, conducted project activities on 90-acres of the Bill and Vera Daniels University Farm that engaged learners while identifying soil types. This area of land has a combination of soil textures that range from sand, loamy sand, and sandy loam topsoil horizons to sandy clay loam, clay loam, and clay subsoil horizons. The student volunteers gained practical and technical knowledge about the physical characteristics and chemical indicators present in these soils. The initial learning module focused on pH monitoring of the topsoil horizons at 100 data points that were systematically selected using a sampling grid. Observation of important project information using a scientific method contributed toward enhancing the CAHS students’ experiences related to how to use customized soil maps from the web soil survey, systematic grid overlay techniques, and geographic information systems.
As a result of participating in the ETV Program, the students and the CAHS will be able to use their technical and scientific knowledge to apply the latest soil health measures to address soil, water, and environmental issues that impact our clientele, including farmers, ranchers, and landowners in Texas. This program is directly connected to the USDA NRCS Soil Health Initiative, a national priority, that will use results of soil and water data gathered in the field to respond to questions that have been asked by members of the advisory committee. This group will be comprised of landowners, farmers, ranchers, and business owners in the surrounding Texas Gulf Coast Prairie region.
Special thanks are extended to Dr. Annette A. James, USDA’s Horace Hodge, the Cooperative Extension Program and CAHS undergraduate students Javon Polk, and Edward K. Timms for their support of the grant project activities.
Richard Griffin, Ph.D.
Research Scientist, Natural Resources and Environmental Systems Research