AAFC gifted 110 soil monoliths to the school
By Diego Flammini
An Alberta school displayed a federal donation to the public for the first time on Tuesday.
Lethbridge College unveiled its collection of 110 soil monoliths (vertical cross-sections of soil about one metre (3.28 feet) in length that feature soil from a variety of regions in its natural state).
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) donated the soil collection to the school from its Lethbridge Research and Development Centre. Federal ag minister Lawrence MacAulay approved the donation in January 2018.
The display includes eight of the 10 Orders of soil identified by the Canadian System of Soil Classification. The monoliths include soils stretching from B.C. to Saskatchewan, and the Yukon.
The collection will help enhance student education, said Edith Olson, an environmental sciences instructor at Lethbridge College.
“We are deeply indebted to AAFC for this donation,” she told Farms.com in an email. “It is a teaching tool that will teach today’s students, their children, and generations to come. Without leaving the campus we can see a diversity of soil profiles from many locations. We can discuss with the students questions like, Why is this one like that? What classification does it belong to? Why?”
The school also has plans to incorporate virtual reality (VR) into its soil education initiatives, Olson said.
“The collection will be digitized and then the images will be combined with virtual reality so that, in the future, students can not only look at the monoliths hanging in their display cases, but can don a set of VR headgear and experience the landscape from which the monolith came,” she said.
Viewing the monoliths may even help others develop an appreciation for soil.
Typically, people walk on soil without realizing what’s happening underneath, said Fran Walley, a professor in the University of Saskatchewan’s soil science department.
“It’s incredible how varied and beautiful some soils are,” she told Farms.com. “It’s more than just a picture being worth a thousand words. It’s unbelievable to see some soil profiles and wonder how they developed.”