We have a few cups of soil, a couple of ounces of wood from a tree, and a vial of water from a lake. What can these things tell us? Do we just go and scoop each one up and call it a day? This class is meant to be an exploration of the natural world and the ways that everyday items can be collected and tested to reveal important information.
Trees: We will use a tree corer to take cores (dowel rod-like segments of wood from the outside of a tree to the core). We will then mount and prepare the tree cores and look for clues about the tree’s health. We’ll look for evidence of dry periods and wet seasons. Perhaps, we’ll see the effects of some sort of pollution. Then, we’ll look at the wood through a microscope to see if it looks different from years with different conditions.
We’ll learn about a tree’s health from the color of its leaves. We’ll look at the connection between the soil and the tree. How do nutrients get into the soil and then into the tree? How does the tree help create and change the soil?
While we’re on the subject of soil, we’ll look at the ways that soil can help catch a suspect in a crime. The soil can help us figure out how heavy a person who walked past is. It can also tell us how long ago certain events occurred.
Is the soil the same on the surface as it is a foot down? We can dig deeper for an understanding of what this “dirt” really is.
And then, there’s water. If it’s in a stream or lake, it might smell a little funny and have stuff floating in it. What is this stuff? Why do fish live in some bodies of water and not others? How does water affect the rocks under it? How do we test water?
Finally, what can we do away from the field? We’ll talk about a lot of ways to test soil, water, and plants, and we’ll also visit a lab and see a really cool piece of equipment that can test just about anything.