ENST Students and Faculty Volunteer to Educate Thousands of Children and Parents About Soils and Crops

Dr. Yarwood plays in the dirt with children at the USA Science & Engineering Festival

April 30, 2018

In a show of solidarity supporting agronomy, crop and soil sciences, three graduate and four undergraduate students joined three faculty members from ENST to volunteer at the USA Science & Engineering Festival hosted from April 6-8, 2018, at the Convention Center in Washington, DC.  The bi-annual festival, inaugurated in 2010, is the nation’s largest celebration of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), and is free to the general public.  This year’s Expo featured 3,000 hands-on exhibits from science and engineering societies, government agencies, universities, and private companies.  Festival organizers estimated that approximately 350,000 attended the festival and explored every conceivable niche of the scientific enterprise. Attractions ranged from a complete F-16 Thunderbird to a massive Lego engineering project and train set, to a complete reproduction of Matthew Henson and Robert Peary’s polar expedition camp. Representing the agronomic, crop, and soil sciences, the Tri Societies (Agronomy, Crops, and Soil Science Societies of America) had a booth with interactive exhibits examining xylem and phloem cells in celery, seed with crop matching games, several soil texture samples for handling, a soil pH experiment, and the ‘Spin the Soil Wheel’ game.  ENST fielded nearly three quarters of the Tri Societies’ volunteers manning the booth over the 3-day festival and were able to interact with thousands of children, teens, and adults. “A festival like this is extremely important for educating the general public about the importance of our environmental sciences. Soils, especially, are frequently out-of-sight, but our goal is to make sure that they’re not out-of-mind for many of these festival goers,” said Matthew Bright a postdoctoral soil scientist working in Ray Weil’s lab. Particularly encouraging for the ENST department was the participation of 4 undergraduate students currently enrolled in ENST 200 (Fundamentals of Soil Science). These students have not yet completed a soil science course, yet still freely volunteered their time to teach others what they’ve learned so far this semester. Undergraduates participating in this event were: Bill Li, Abby Conway, Jack Wavering, and William Mast. Graduate student participants: Martina Gonzalez Mateu, Dana Rushovich, and Brian Scott. Faculty member participants: Matthew Bright, Taniya Roy Chowdhury, and Stephanie Yarwood.