New initiative looks to bring soils into classrooms around the globe

FAO partnership launches series of educational materials on the critical role of healthy soils

24 July 2015, Rome - A new series of educational materials is teaching children the importance of healthy soils for our food, environment, livelihoods and well-being.

Developed by FAO and the Washington D.C.-based National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) as part of the 2015 International Year of Soils (IYS2015), the materials target children aged 5 to 14, using word games, puzzles, drawing activities and other interactive elements.

The four educational booklets are separately designed for beginner, intermediate, advanced and young adult students, with an accompanying educator's guide for teachers.

Originally produced in English to complement the exhibit on soils at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, the materials have been translated into French, Spanish, Italian, Chinese, Arabic and Russian, and the content has been slightly adapted to suit the needs of different FAO member countries. All of the booklets are available for download on the FAO International Year of Soils website.

FAO is now collaborating with governments who wish to translate the materials into additional languages to be used in primary and secondary school curricula. Once finalized, all of the materials will be available online for free use by member countries, teachers and students, just in time for the beginning of the new school year in the Northern Hemisphere.

"Our collaboration with NACD helps us accomplish one of the main objectives of the IYS, which is to raise awareness about the profound importance of soil for human life. The materials produced will help FAO to educate the public about the crucial role soil plays in food security, climate change adaptation and mitigation, essential ecosystem services, poverty alleviation and sustainable development," said Mario Lubetkin, Director of FAO's Office for Corporate Communication.

"The ‘DIG IT - Secrets of Soil' project -- developed by NACD in collaboration with the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and the Soil Science Society of America -- has been highly successful in reaching U.S. students to help them gain an appreciation for soil and the food and other products that come from it," said NACD President Lee McDaniel.  "We are proud to partner with FAO to expand the reach of these quality educational resources across the globe."

NACD is a nonprofit organization that represents America's 3 000 conservation districts that carry out natural resource management programs at the local level to protect land and water resources. These districts work with millions of cooperating landowners and operators to help them manage and protect land and water resources on all private lands and many public lands in the United States. In addition to its work supporting conservation districts, NACD also works closely with soil scientists to produce a wealth of educational materials to teach students about the importance of conserving and protecting our soils. For more information, visit:

Photo: ©FAO
The series "Dig It: The Secrets of Soils" is available in multiple languages.