Launch of the CURIOSOIL – Community of Practice: A Step Forward for Soil Education in Europe

On June 6, 2024, the Curiosoil Community of Practice (CoP) held its inaugural meeting, marking a significant milestone in advancing soil education across Europe. This initiative is part of CURIOSOIL (Awakening Soil Curiosity to Catalyse Soil Literacy) a four-year, EU-funded project focused on enhancing soil education. The project addresses the critical need for a better understanding of soil amid increasing human pressures on this essential resource. Using hands-on Soil Experiences, CURIOSOIL aims to deepen public comprehension of soil dynamics, establishing a connection between individuals and soil.

The meeting brought together a diverse group of stakeholders to discuss the project’s objectives, share insights, and outline future activities. Resources from the session:

Register now for the 1st Transnational meeting Curiosoil Community of Practice: Awakening Soil Curiosity to Catalyse Soil Literacy.

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Introduction to the CURIOSOIL Project

By collaboratively developing educational products, curriculum standards, and teacher training programs, CURIOSOIL aims to increase the appreciation of soil value and to align with the EU Mission “A Soil Deal for Europe.” This initiative cultivates soil literacy, engages citizens, and promotes sustainable soil practices. The project aims to integrate soil health into EU school curricula by 2030, fostering awareness, knowledge, and behavioural changes for a resilient and climate-smart future.

Running from 2024 to 2028, the project emphasizes different priorities each year. Benefits of participation in the Community of practice include early access to educational materials and financial support for national events. Indeed, a key work package “Engaging educational public authorities, policy and decision-makers” will deliver:

  • 15 National workshops for the co-creation of recommendations for policymakers with a target attendance of >100 school and university heads
  • 1 EU Final Conference with 100+ stakeholders and education policymakers 
  • 15 National and 1 EU policy briefs with recommendations for policymakers co-developed with school heads and education policy stakeholders 

Sónia Rodrigues, CURIOSOIL Coordinator, stressed the importance of soil literacy and encouraged members to leverage their expertise to contribute meaningfully to the project.

Synergies with Soil Mission projects: LOESS & ECHO

Olga Huerta (University Hohenheim) presented the ECHO project, Engaging Citizens in soil science: the road to Healthier sOils, a research and innovation initiative co-funded by the European Union, focused on engaging citizens in soil protection and restoration. An open call for ECHO ambassadors was announced, targeting individuals from Finland, Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Scotland, and Spain. These ambassadors will co-design local citizen science initiatives and support future citizen scientists in their communities.

Norbert Steinhaus highlighted collaboration opportunities with the LOESS project, Literacy Boost through an Operational Educational Ecosystem of Societal Actors on Soil Health, and the potential learnings through the various Mission Soil and soil health-related projects:

LOESS will host additional project-to-project workshops over the next two years, and you can read about these and all projects related to Mission Soil in their list.

Looking Ahead

The meeting concluded with positive feedback from participants, highlighting the informative and collaborative nature of the discussions. The next transnational meeting is scheduled for September, where further progress will be reviewed, and additional steps will be planned. This launch event marks a promising start for the Curiosoil Community of Practice, setting the stage for significant advancements in soil education across Europe.

Register now for the 1st Transnational meeting Curiosoil Community of Practice: Awakening Soil Curiosity to Catalyse Soil Literacy.

Follow CURIOSOIL on LinkedIn and Instagram.

Review existing digital resources for soil education

We are welcoming the collaboration of our CoP members for the review of existing digital resources for soil education. The research will identify technological and pedagogical solutions that have been utilised to sustain the soil education on a wide and global scale. This results will feed a platform where the resources will be shared back with the relevant projects and actors. Thank you for your support!

Testimony from Katja Črnec, Faculty of Environmental Protection

My name is Katja Črnec, and I participated in the online meeting for the CURIOSOIL CoP launch as the Slovenian project partner from the Faculty of Environmental Protection (FEP), along with my mentor, Prof. Dr. Borut Vrščaj. From the start, the meeting’s welcoming and productive nature was evident. I was pleased to see nearly a hundred participants from various fields, all united by the goal of improving soil literacy and awareness of healthy soil.

The meeting was highly beneficial, featuring a diverse audience from different soil projects across Europe. It was an excellent opportunity to connect with others and share developed materials, ideas, and project results. The breakout sessions provided a more personal experience of the CoP’s role, allowing participants to express their expectations and wishes in their native languages. The Slovenian breakout room was particularly valuable for fostering connections and constructive discussions on potential cooperation.

I am optimistic that the number of CoP participants will continue to grow, enhancing the dissemination and outreach of project deliverables and educational materials. I look forward to the first transnational CoP meeting in September, expecting it to be even more interesting and complex as CURIOSOIL’s project work progresses.

Testimony “From 0% to 100% Biodiversity in Boekel Ecovillage”

In 2016, ten families started Ecodorp Boekel in the south of the Netherlands. The 1.2 hectares we initially rented from the municipality had been regular farmland for decades, consisting of just sand. Due to pesticide use, nothing lived in the soil—not even a worm. A permaculture expert likened our soil to a human being in need of Intensive Care.

We joined the global Community of Practice for Verified Conservation Areas and created a measurable biodiversity plan. We consulted organizations like the Butterfly Foundation to identify two butterfly species that could thrive in a green ecovillage and did the same for bats, birds, and wild bees. They estimated how many individuals of each species could live among us after ten years. We now have a spreadsheet planning the number of individuals for the next decade. Annually, we conduct a Bioblitz to count the number of individuals and all other plants and animals in our area, and every two years, an ecology expert provides advice on improvements.

After planning and building our biobased houses, we began the count in 2023. The construction process had compacted the soil, so we dug deep holes for every tree and bush, added compost, and introduced Mycorrhiza fungus to help the trees communicate and share nutrients.

We maximize ecosystem services to strengthen our natural surroundings. For example, we created a Constructed Wetland to clean our wastewater, which then infiltrates the soil. Even during droughts, our 36 households add thousands of litres of water into the soil daily. We store 90,000 litres of rainwater for flushing toilets, washing machines, and gardening. Like every ecovillage, we grow our food. Our province is so impressed with our biodiversity plan that they may include us in the Dutch Conservation Area, proving humans can positively impact their natural surroundings.

We participate in the CURIOSOIL Community of Practice on behalf of all Dutch ecovillages in the Global Ecovillage Network Netherlands. Ecovillagers understand the importance of healthy soil and can educate themselves and others in the region. Sharing our methods of working with nature is crucial. Humans are unique; we can choose between right and wrong. With our numbers, we must have a positive impact on our natural surroundings and the soil, as we are part of nature.

A Testimony from Portugal

At one of Portugal’s largest agricultural fairs in Santarém from June 8-16, 2024, an engaging initiative titled “Discovering the Secrets of Soil” was launched to captivate young minds and is representative of what CURIOSOIL aims to achieve. This event, part of the Soilife1st project, focused on the role of cover crops in soil health and aimed to highlight the importance of soils, their health, and sustainability through hands-on activities and interactive experiences.

Children were introduced to the fascinating world beneath their feet through a series of interactive stations, each dedicated to a different aspect of soil science. The first station focused on soil formation, where children learned about rock weathering and organic matter decomposition. They created their soil profiles in test tubes, gaining a hands-on understanding of soil formation.

Next, they explored soil texture by feeling samples of sand, silt, and clay hidden inside mystery boxes, understanding how these components affect soil structure and plant growth. At another station, they examined soil constituents, observed various minerals and organic matter, and learned how different soils store and filter water, emphasizing the importance of soils in the ecosystem.

One of the highlights was discovering life in the soil. Children were introduced to soil organisms, from earthworms and insects to microscopic bacteria and fungi. To reinforce their lessons, each child received a booklet filled with colourful illustrations, fun facts, and simple activities, serving as both a souvenir and a valuable educational resource.

Undergraduate Agronomy students developed and led several activities, contributing to the children’s education and fostering a collaborative environment with teachers, university students, and children to raise awareness about soil health and sustainability.

The children’s enthusiasm was evident during the interactive experiments, such as creating soil profiles, feeling different soil textures, investigating limestone presence, and painting with earth-based paints. Their participation was marked by curiosity and excitement, making learning about soil both fun and memorable.

Overall, “Discovering the Secrets of Soil” was a success that hope to replicate within CURIOSOIL project. The children left the fair with a greater appreciation for the ground beneath them and a deeper understanding of maintaining healthy, sustainable soils, sowing the seeds of environmental stewardship for the future.

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Co-funded by the European Union - The 25 Percent Project

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