Philomath High School Environmental Science Projects


Philomath High School Class Analyzes Soil Chemistry

by Tom Thompson, Science Teacher at Philomath High School

The Philomath High School environmental chemistry class has been spending the year trying to understand the local environment from a chemical perspective. One major project has been the analysis of the water quality on the Mary's River watershed. As we wrap up that investigation for the year, we are moving our focus away from the water and onto the land.

The ten students in the Philomath High School environmental chemistry class are up to their elbows in mud. They are working with two horticulture classes to analyze soil chemistry. Students in the horticulture class collected soil samples from a series of 20 raised beds that they maintain on the high school grounds. Each student in the environmental chemistry class is responsible for analysis of two of the soil samples. When analysis of each sample is complete, the results will be posted on a web page for horticulture students this year and students in future classes. Eventually we hope to have a yearly record of each bed so horticulture students can improve the quality of their soil.

This year the environmental chemistry students will be measuring eight different soil parameters. Soil texture will be analyzed using a simple field test to estimate sand, silt and clay percentages. Soil samples will be dried to measure water content and then treated with hydrogen peroxide to measure organic content. Soil pH will be measured using digital pH meters. LaMotte soil test kits will be used to measure the soil macronutrients of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. A final test is more unusual. Each soil will be analyzed for its bacterial activity using an enzyme assay technique.

This year is a year for establishing baseline data on the raised beds. Each year students in the horticulture classes change the soil through new plantings and addition of compost and nutrients. In the future we hope to track how these changes affect the soil in each bed.

This aerial photograph shows Philomath High School and Middle School in relation to theeastern part of the city of Philomath and to Newton Creek, a tributary of Marys River.The color version of this aerial can be seen (and downloaded) from the Internet version ofthis newsletter at: http://www/ The photograph was taken in the early 1990s by W.A.C., of Eugene, Oregon.

Special Places Small Mammal Trapping Project

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