Fourth grade students learned about the properties of soil in science class by comparing five different soils, including samples collected here on campus. They observed that soils are composed of essentially the same types of materials (inorganic earth materials and humus), but the amounts of the materials vary. Students did an experiment to evaluate the capability of different soils to hold water. They explored how rocks break into smaller pieces found in soil through physical and chemical weathering. As students researched, experimented, and investigated properties of schoolyard soil, they made observations and interpreted them to develop explanations to help understand soil, an important natural resource.
In art, students used soil samples (including what they gathered at NPS) to create their own paint. After sifting and grinding the soil, they mixed it with gum arabic, glycerin and water to form paint. They were inspired by Japanese artist Yusuke Asai who creates site-specific murals using a paint palette of locally sourced soil. As Asai says, “The dirt does not last, but nothing in life is permanent. The soil is a living medium.” Asai’s murals include imaginative animals and places that express our relationship to the earth. Students created imaginative, patterned animals inspired by Asai’s art. Then they worked together to create temporary murals. “Our art shows that all animals can live together, even though they are different,” commented one of the artists.
By approaching a subject (soil) through different disciplines, students have the opportunity to use learning in one domain to inform work in another. The integration of disciplines also allows students to work in a variety of learning and thinking modes, and to view the world as both scientists and artists. Through this experience, students learn how these disciplines may be similar (research, experimentation, observation) or different (focused on facts or artistic expression).