By Stephanie Harmon, Watershed Specialist
On March 12, 2019, a chilly day with hints of spring, ninety energetic middle and high school Envirothon students from Lebanon County school districts, including Cornwall-Lebanon, Eastern Lebanon County, Lebanon, Myerstown Enrichment, Northern Lebanon, and Palmyra got their hands dirty at Soils Training at the Lebanon Expo Center.
The training was hosted by the Lebanon County Conservation District and coordinated by Watershed Specialist and Lebanon County Envirothon Coordinator, Stephanie Harmon. Special guest instructors included the following USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service staff: Resource Soil Scientist John Chibirka, Assistant State Conservationist Charlie Hanner, and Soil Conservationist Lindsey Bream.
The training began with a presentation on the basics of soils components, understanding maps, surveys and landforms, land use, decision making, protection, and the importance of understanding soils. John used his whimsical personality to charm and excite students about the varied importances of soil characteristics and features.
After the presentation, students rotated through two stations where they (literally) got their hands dirty by practicing the “Soil Texture by Feel” method and reading a soil textural triangle to determine the classification of two different soil samples. Additionally, students reviewed differences in soil colors and practiced how to read the color scientifically, using a “Munsell color book” (a book of color chips that follow the Munsell System of Color Notation) as used by soil scientists. Finally, students were provided an introduction and history of topographical maps and practiced reading and measuring contour lines and understanding the many different features of topographical maps.