Engaging young minds about the superpowers of soil often requires a creative approach in order to capture their interest. There’s a new app available in the App Store and on Google Play for IPad and Android called ‘Starting with Soil’ that provides an innovative way of learning about the importance of soil and its function in our daily lives. From weathering processes to microbial interactions to actual soil formation, this app takes children on a journey of realization to show them that there’s more than just dirt under our feet.

Do you know where the food on your plate comes from? Why it tastes so good and what makes it healthy? Well, it all starts with soil. Starting with Soil (the app) begins with illustrating how the powerful forces of nature break down parent materials, like rock, to create the mineral component of soil, while microbes and plants interface to grow soil organic matter, the living part of soil.

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As you interact with Starting with Soil, it becomes clear how much of our lives are tied to soil and this gently nudges the reader towards the new and powerful insight that soil is alive and animals, pollinators, plants and microbes all play a significant part in soil formation and health.

Starting with Soil uses slow motion video and time lapse photography to bring soil to life with germinating sprouts, blooming flowers, and a close-up look at birds and butterflies. There is even a microscope to magnify the microbiological contributions made by microbes—bacteria, protozoa, fungi, nematodes—and their role in building soil and its structure.

Navigating the app engages the reader in an interactive experience that shows the exciting properties of soil. IMG_3322You can learn the importance of organic matter and how it increases the water holding capacity of soil by making it rain over depleted soil versus carbon rich topsoil. The carbon rich soil which is high in organic matter soaks up more water thus providing a reserve for all the life it supports as well as helping to prevent sediment from flowing into streams.

Students and their families will enjoy planting seeds and seeing how techniques like “companion planting” – a practice Native Americans still use today can grow healthy nutritious food from soil in a garden or field.

Starting with Soil is designed for learners grades 3-5 and is a visually rich method of describing the dynamic relationship of soil health to our food system, while presenting the value of the overall ecological function of healthy soil.

Starting with Soil was created by the Whole Kids Foundation and the Center for Ecoliteracy. San Francisco-based creative agency, Monstro, was the key production collaborator.