Science teachers now have access to free classroom lessons to help bring soil and plant science to life with the Nutrients for Life Foundation's announcement of the availability of its "Nourishing the Planet in the 21st Century" middle school and high school science curriculum supplements. Each six-lesson supplement is the product of extensive field testing and correlates to the National Science Education Standards (NSES).



"Nourishing the Planet in the 21st Century" utilizes hands-on experiments, which allow students to explore how essential nutrients, the properties of soils, and plant-soil interactions influence plant growth and crop nutrient levels. The module provides hands-on classroom applications and inquiry-based lessons to help students realize how the challenges of feeding our growing population can be solved with science. The curriculum also features a corresponding Web module that allows students to engage in a role-playing exercise to explore the scientific, global, social and economic issues surrounding food production. To date, more than 1,500 science teachers have signed up to receive copies of "Nourishing the Planet in the 21st Century."



"Nourishing the Planet in the 21st Century" was developed by Biological Sciences Curriculum Study (www.bscs.org) with teacher and scientists input and is aligned with NSES criteria-especially with the objectives created for general science, environmental science and biology. Additionally, all classroom materials were favorably reviewed by the Smithsonian Institution.



Both high school and middle school units were field tested by teachers from across the nation. Each field test teacher conducted the entire module, as well as administered pre-tests and post-tests to determine the effectiveness of the materials. Both students and teachers also had the opportunity to complete open-ended surveys and evaluation forms from which the curriculum's developers gathered valuable feedback. Eighty-nine percent of the field test teachers agreed that the content was a valuable addition to their curriculum, and students provided favorable feedback as well.



"I enjoyed this unit because it provided relevance for the importance of human responsibility toward land usage, essential elements and soil. It tied in perfectly with plants and environmental standards," said Sharon Harter, high school teacher and field test instructor from Colorado Springs, Colo.



All teachers agreed that the lessons promoted thinking, inquiry and study skills, and believed their students could understand the scientific content clearly. Many teachers also expressed an appreciation for tying not only the science lessons, but also math and social aspects, into real-life examples to which their students could relate.



"Before developing this curriculum, we polled teachers from across the country to determine their science classroom needs. When we found there is a lack of information available on bringing the science of plant nutrients into classrooms, we set out to create "Nourishing the Planet in the 21st Century," said Kathy Mathers, executive director of the Nutrients for Life Foundation. "We believe the end result will help teachers convey an important topic and equip students with the tools to better understand the critical role fertilizers play in food production and the environment."



In addition to online availability, print copies are also available by contacting the Foundation's office at (202) 962-0490 or via e-mail at kmathers@nutrientsforlife.org. The Foundation will continue to market these educational materials to national and regional science teacher conferences and with Agriculture in the Classroom and other educational organizations. Industry members are also strongly encouraged to utilize these supplements with middle school and high school teachers in their own communities.