“We wanted to create a playful way to help kids understand the importance of healthy soil and see first-hand the roles that plants, animals and people play in keeping it balanced,” said Nona Evans, president and executive director of Whole Kids Foundation. “We think it’s critical kids understand where food comes from, the process it goes through to land on our plates and the significant effects these processes have on our environment, communities and bodies.”
Slow motion video allows kids to behold bees pollinating and butterflies extracting nectar with startling zeal. Time lapse photography captures the way apple, radish and bean seeds become seedlings that burst through topsoil in vibrant color. Nematodes, algae and protozoa make cameo appearances. Young users can plant seeds, build a compost pile, drag a microscope over organisms in soil to get a better look, and view the symbiosis at work when corn, beans and squash are planted together, as Native Americans have done for centuries. Animation and well-placed sound effects tie the content together.
“Soil is literally packed with reciprocal and fascinating relationships, and kids are captivated to discover that life and energy are alive and well beneath their feet,” said Zenobia Barlow, Executive Director of the Center for Ecoliteracy.
The app is designed at a third-grade reading level. Environmental educators and teachers with access to school gardens will appreciate the central message: soil is alive, riveting and vital. School gardens are becoming an increasingly common educational tool; they are shown to improve children’s behavior and performance at school and improve their attitudes about and appreciation for the environment. Children who grow their own food are also more likely to eat fruits and vegetables and to be more knowledgeable about nutrition.
Since its inception in 2011, Whole Kids Foundation, a Whole Foods Market Foundation dedicated to helping kids eat better and enjoy it, has raised more than $21 million, investing $18 million in programs that have served more than five million children in the United States, Canada and the U.K. For more information on Starting with Soil, visit www.wholekidsfoundation.org/organiceducation.