MACON, Ga. — Georgia elementary students put their science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills to work this spring as they competed in the inaugural Georgia Ag Experience STEM Challenge coordinated by the Georgia Foundation for Agriculture. The Soil Health Explorers STEM Challenge, which the Georgia Association of Conservation Districts (GACD) sponsored, asked students to explore how farmers and home gardeners keep the soil in their fields and gardens healthy to grow crops and vegetables.
The STEM Challenge was open to third through fifth-grade classes statewide with a winner picked for each grade. Almost 50 classes registered for the challenge.
Congratulations to Roopville Elementary’s “QUEST Kids,” taught by Jennifer Carroll, for winning the third-grade prize! Trinity Christian School’s “Fourth-Grade Crusaders Team,” taught by Nona Dasher took top honors in its division. Dallas Elementary’s “Venture Soil Detectives,” taught by Stephanie Atkinson won the fifth-grade competition. Winners were announced May 21 in a Zoom presentation.
Roopville Elementary in Carroll County won its third-grade division for the authentic way the students discussed what they learned about soil health by testing the pH of their soil and consulting with a local FFA teacher and GACD staff.
The Trinity Christian fourth-graders in Laurens County sent a soil sample from their 8×8 garden plot to UGA for soil analysis before planting a pollinator garden for bees and butterflies. The fourth-grade class also made and posted a laminated sign highlighting soil health facts at their garden plot to educate other students.
The Dallas Elementary fifth-graders in Paulding County won their category with a creative news-style video “Underground News Network” that depicted team members posing as reporters and soil experts being interviewed to share what they learned about soil health.
Teachers of each winning class received a $250 classroom supply grant and an educational conservation resource kit donated by GACD.
Each class that participated in the STEM Challenge was asked to answer the question, “How can we improve soil biodiversity and overall soil health?”
The challenge required participating classes to: 1) Develop an initial report after examining a plot of land to determine the land’s soil health status by performing a series of tests on the soil; 2) Reach out to their local Farm Bureau office, Natural Resources Conservation Service office and/or UGA Extension office for assistance to discuss soil health with their class; 3) Create a video presentation on how they improved their soil and learned how real-world factors impact the soil on their plot of land.
The Georgia Ag Experience/Georgia Foundation for Agriculture STEM Challenge is designed to be a bi-annual competition with a spring and fall contest. The GACD is also sponsoring the fall STEM Challenge, which will ask students to explore trees. Look for challenge details to be announced in August at www.gfb.ag/stemchallenge.
The purpose of the GAE STEM Challenge is to encourage elementary teachers and students in grades 3-5 to explore aspects of Georgia agriculture by applying their STEM skills to solve real-world problems that farmers face in producing our food and fiber. It is the only ag-focused STEM challenge for elementary students in Georgia.
Visit www.gfb.ag/spring21GAESTEMwinners to see the ZOOM awards presentation and the three winning video presentations.
–Georgia Farm Bureau