Worm Hunting, Soil Science, and The Coronavirus Lesson

I finished the elective by talking about our reliance on worms and soil bacteria. Without these visible and invisible heroes, our lives could not exist.

On Friday 13th of March we enjoyed one of our best ever days. Worms, sunshine, and breaking ground at Drumchapel High School. We were building new worlds–one potato at a time. But little did we know, days later the world began to shut down, and the progress we’d engineered for months was arrested by the global pandemic.

It’s pretty heartbreaking. We had real momentum on our side. We were 4 weeks into the eco-garden elective at Boclair Academy, and we were developing fantastic relationships with the 15 students we’d got to know. But more importantly, March is a key month for planting crops: from potatoes to the peas we’d started indoors. On top of this, we’d finally got permission to start building the school garden at Drumchapel High School, following the blueprint I’d spent a long time working on. Getting started at Drumchapel, along with Steven, remains a key priority of mine.

We asked students to break into teams to hunt worms and other underground creatures. Soil is an incredibly complex and densely packed ecosystem.

Friday’s entire lesson was planned around understanding the soil as a living, breathing, ecosystem – one populated by wriggling worms, squiggling nematodes, complex fungal networks, and billions of bacteria. Many of these symbiotic relationships are incredibly fragile and beautiful. The plant, I invited the students to consider, is not an independent organism. It is a worldly relationship.

A video showing the worm hunt!
Measuring out the space for a herb garden at Drumchapel.
Worm hunting!
The garden will still be there – ready for regrowth and rebirth.

But I suppose these “strange times” offer important lessons.

The coronavirus brings into stark relief our reliance on food networks. Society runs on its supermarkets. And that engenders a precarity we’ve all seen first-hand. Our school garden project is, and remains, a vital corrective to this overt dependence on big agriculture and commercial food. If we are to become more resilient, autonomous, and climatically sensitive communities, we have to learn how to grow in our backyards. How to grow new worlds.

Empowering students to feel confident with their earthly skills is crucial to our future. Caring for the land is caring for ourselves. And it is this lesson, amongst so much tragedy and ennui, that we must carry forward.

We will grow. And like the bean plant and its underground bacteria, we must grow together.

– Ian

I don’t know how to annotate this photo 🙂

One Reply to “Worm Hunting, Soil Science, and The Coronavirus Lesson”

  1. Sounds like a great fun way of learning. We need this type of lesson in today’s world of ‘the internet’. Whoever thought of it is awesome and must take after their father.!

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