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A sneak peek at “Organism of the Year”! The mites’ explain why they deserve it

Editors’ thoughts on this week’s unit!

What’s really happening to our soil! See how our actions affect the world


TABLE OF CONTENTS Letters from the Editors p. 3-5 Nature Gallery p. 6-7 Victory Gardens p. 8 Propaganda Poster p. 9 Poems p. 10-11 “Organism of the Year” p. 12-13 Quotes p. 14

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LETTERS FROM THE EDITORS Throughout the past week, I have had a lot of fun with the soil unit. Each day I learned something new and something different. I have gotten to work with some people I have never worked with before and have gotten to know them better. On Friday, our very first day with the soil unit, we went to Arlington Gardens. I had never been there before so it was pretty new to me. I walked through the labyrinth, wrote about my surroundings, and then collected samples around the garden for our bacteria/fungi experiment. On Monday, I learned about community and victory gardens. We looked back in history how it affected the economy, society, and the people. That was also the day we started our propaganda posters, and it was fun to think of a motto with my group. At our halfway point, that was the day we got assigned our organism (mine was the mites) for our “Organism of the Year” speech. We also sketched out our propaganda poster and I felt very productive and confident in how it looked. I felt that was the day my group (Ariel, Jana, and I) really connected and were able to rely on each other for anything. The next day, was when the fungi group worked with Ms. Lukens and Ms. Chabot on the Fibonacci sequence. It was definitely a hard concept to understand, so we went around the campus finding things in nature related to the Fibonacci sequence. By the end of the lesson, everyone in the class was pretty confident about it. That was also the day my group finished our propaganda poster! It looks amazing with all of the earthy colors and clearly getting the message across. On Thursday, we actually got into the soil and got pretty dirty. We started a rain garden for native plants behind Mudd and learned how over watering some of the plants lead them to death sooner. I also made seed balls and newspaper pots, which I am so proud of! After that, we took a walk around Westridge and identified how a lot of the trees on campus are dying very quickly because of not enough sun, not enough spacing, or too little or too much watering. Our last activity for the day was to look back at our nature collecting samples from Arlington Gardens. We looked in them and saw all of the bacteria and fungi and recorded the data in our lab journals. Over the entire soil unit I have learned so much and most of the things we learned will definitely stick with me. I have great memories and it was fun to share them with all of my friends, teachers, and classmates. - Maddie D’Antuono

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The soil unit completely changed the way I see the world. Through out the time our grade spent learning about soil and nature, I learned about so many things that I would never notice. Before the soil unit, I had no idea how important soil really is. I am glad I got to be enlightened about nature and our effects on nature. Learning about how our actions affect the world is so important to the future of our society and the world around us. The most intriguing part of the whole soil unit for me was to learn about trees, specifically the trees on campus. Because of our actions in planting certain trees without regard to their needs and specific living conditions, many trees on campus will have a shorter life span than expected. This is where the soil unit really made an impact. After learning about how our actions affect everything around us, we can take that knowledge and put it to use when we plant trees in the future. There were also many other aspects of the soil unit that I greatly enjoyed. I really love the idea of a soil organism of the year. It was fun to create cover art for that organism and the truth is organisms do a lot for not only us but also the world and they deserve as much recognition for their hard work as we do. The whole idea of working to “win� your organism an award really changed how people viewed the project of studying a soil organism and writing a report about it. Though all the projects we had to do involving the soil unit may have seemed challenging at times they were all rewarding. For instance, the propaganda posters that each group had to make seemed hard to accomplish at times with the limited amount of time we had, all the posters looked amazing after they were finished and got a strong point across about gardening. I am epically proud of the propaganda poster I helped to create. Our group was really behind on the propaganda posters after the first day, but we worked really hard to pull through and complete the poster exactly how we envisioned it. The soil unit was really eye opening. Though some parts were challenging at times, the overall experience was really rewarding and information we can take away from the experience is really important. I got to learn about so many things that I had never known before and will be able to use that knowledge in my everyday experiences. -Ariel Langer

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I have really enjoyed the soil unit. I found it to be a wonderful, beautiful way of reconnecting with nature on a daily basis, learning about everything natural; learning from the school of life, and a different way of spending time and bonding with our classmates. As I wrote on Soil Unit Day 1, Friday, March 16, I learned about the wonders of labyrinths and some of the ways we hurt trees. Little did I know, that was only the beginning of the series of damaged trees on our campus, sadly! I also wrote that it was challenging to channel my thoughts into my poem, and… though I don’t really want to say this, to revisit some past grief, heal, and look forward to when an empty spot of pale lavender will no longer look me in the eye. I know that soon, that spot will instead be a flourishing purple. I was proud of the poem I wrote, and surprised at how centered I felt in a place that brought grief. On Soil Unit Day 2, Monday, March 19 (which was also my Mom’s birthday!), I learned about victory gardens!!! They are truly amazing and inspiring, in my opinion. They bring communities together. How beautiful! My challenge that day was coming up with a slogan, and I was proud of _________. I was surprised that victory gardens are no longer very (fill in the blank) popular, sadly. I was disappointed because of this, but I’m very happy that there are still some smart, young people in the world who are bringing this back! On Soil Unit Day 3, Tuesday, March 20 (I would like to note, by the way, Tuesday’s are my least favorite day of the week.), I learned the importance of topsoil. I found my challenge that day in the propaganda posters we were drawing in our groups. I’m not the greatest artist, but I feel I contributed a good amount to our propaganda poster, and was proud of my fair artistic skills. I was surprised that mites were so hated by people. On Wednesday, it was challenging working with the Fibonacci sequence, and figuring out the totals for baby bunnies at the end of each month. I figured it out eventually, though! :] I discussed the importance of names; saw how name~calling could affect people. It surprised me that Fibonacci was called a blockhead… kind of ironic! I learned about how important it is to have friends keep you on the right track. I was proud of our then nearly~done propaganda poster. Thursday, today, March 22, I felt was an absolutely magical day! The day was started with a fast hike around Descanso Gardens, where we took in the sights of the native plants of California (the route we chose!). We floated along, helping plant a new section in the rain garden, met some amazing people who have incredible knowledge of the environment, and set out to experience. I learned all about native plants, how much better they would do in your garden and how much better they would be for your wallet! That is, if you want a plump wallet. We also set out to identify trees and their problems! That was really fun. I am proud of the labor and effort contributed to the rain garden we planted today. I feel surprised that the Soil Unit passed so quickly. -Jana Sevin

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VICTORY GARDENS During the past week, we learned about the impacts and uses of victory gardens. Victory gardens are beautiful. They bring together communities, are made organically, and are good for your wallet! Victory gardens began being made during World War I, in the early 1800’s. The average meal today travels at least 1,500 miles, but food from a local victory garden will only travel 150 inches! This is good for the environment, because normally, your food travels in jets, which use large amounts of oil for their fuel. But, with victory gardens, you can just WALK to get your food! During WWII, 40% of food was made from victory gardens. Overall, victory gardens are beautiful, symbolize togetherness, and produce healthy, organic, locally-grown food!

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POEMS My Surroundings The clouds concealed the sun Gray and dull but my eyes squint because it is beaming Near me the birds our chirping their song in a language only they can decipher Out further the cars zoom by scrambling to get to their destinations In the distance I see layers of green seeming endless with houses peeking in and out Leaves, trees, plants, and more The smell of gardenias fills my nose along with variety of herbs Beneath my feet is the compacted clumpy sand They leave traces of dust on the soles of my shoes On my right are my classmates hidden by the bushes The left are the cacti and bees swarming around collecting pollen Bright flowers are unnoticeable and are around me at every turn Behind me is the calming labyrinth in which I walked easing my heart and emptying my mind. -Maddie D’Antuono When Time Stops Branches gracefully dance across the sky to the beat of the wind Beyond the arches of two towering trees lies a lone daisy in peaceful isolation Flowers paint a portrait across the once barren lands My heart beats to the hum of hundreds of bugs flying amongst the trees The faint rumble of birds singing in harmony sends a chill down my spine Isolation is soon redefined as the harmony between many animals all so close together The drip of water from a nearby tree trunk adds to the music of the earth A bee rolls across in the wind like a flower floating in water My lungs fill with the sweet smell of lavender Flowers cling to me like a small child’s hand Plants wave in the wind as a gentle breeze brushes past me Hair is scattered over my face only for me to remove and reveal a whole other beauty to the world -Ariel Langer

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Purple Dreams and Memories Over my head lay a white sky, Gently weeping; Buried in the leaves Of a tree that floated beside me, And did not dare to move. Somewhere, faraway, Birds sang their endless song, Which drifted And wandered about In the air. Then fell. Everywhere, a lush carpet of maroon, Spongey mulch, Blanketed the ground. Misty tiretracks Brushed the road. The exhausted fragrance of flowers Burned in the air. The color purple: Majestic, Mysterious, Mikayla. An orange spot of sunset, Pictured within stones, Stared at me sharply. My ears turned purple With whispers. They spoke of home. Is that what I look for? -Jana Sevin

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ORGANISM OF THE YEAR We the mites are very grateful for being considered for the prestigious award of “Organism of the Year”. The soil has always been our home, and always will be. It feels great to be recognized for the long hours we spend breaking down organic matter into humus. We help break down the soil by churning, stirring, and mixing it up. We add air to make it smoother and easier to break down. By doing this, it also helps out the other organisms living in the soil society. We help improve soil structures and make nutrients accessible to plants through our daily tasks of eating and releasing organic matter in soil. We also do our best to maintain steady populations of other soil organisms like protozoa. In turn, we also make a hearty meal for larger animals such as birds, mammals, and lizards. To find the food necessary for us to survive, a bunch of us will group together and swarm through leaf litter and air between soil grains. Besides just doing our job, we assist other organisms in the completion of their daily processes contributing to decomposition. Recently, the effects of erosion, farming, tilling, the use of pesticides and other harmful chemicals have taken a huge toll on our community and the soil that keeps us and others alive. Wind and water erosion are ruining our homes and humans are also! Soil is being destroyed ten time faster than we can replenish it, even with the extra hours we have been putting in. “Soil . . . scoop up a handful of the magic stuff. Look at it closely. What wonders it holds as it lies there in your palm. Tiny sharp grains of sand, little faggots of wood and leaf fiber, infinitely small round pieces of marble, fragments of shell, specks of black carbon, a section of vertebrae from some minute creature. And mingling with it all the dust of countless generations of plants and flowers, trees, animals and – yes – our own, age-long forgotten forebears, gardeners of long ago. Can this incredible composition be the common soil?"~ Stuart Maddox Masters, The Seasons Through. We have found a way to nourish our “magic” soil back to health, but sadly it will never be the same. If humans do their part by leaving plants to die naturally so the soil can be replenished with nutrients, this enriched soil would allow plants to grow to their full potential. That’s where we come in. We have the power to take the organic remains in soil and turn them into the energy that plants need to be their best, bold, and beautiful self. If we join together, humans and us, mites, can work together to bring our earth back to health! We have worked very long and hard, especially throughout the last year, trying to keep up with the constant destruction of our precious soil, and it feels great to know our difficult work is making a BIG change across the soil community. We hope to replenish much of the soil that has been lost and to continue to fight to stop the destruction of soil. Mites do our best to keep soil healthy and nutrient filled, thus helping all those who rely on precious soil for their everyday life. Our family of mites would feel overjoyed to receive this award for all the underappreciated work we do everyday. We also feel very honored that we were even able to be nominated for this award. The mites thank you to the fullest! Sincerely, The Mites

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QUOTES "All of earth is crammed with heaven And every bush aflame with God But only those who see take off their shoes." - Elizabeth Barrett Browning "We could have saved the Earth but we were too damned cheap." - Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. "In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock." - Thomas Jefferson "Gardeners Know All The Dirt." - Popular Garden Sayings "To me a lush carpet of pine needles or spongy grass is more welcome than the most luxurious Persian rug." - Helen Keller "There is something frank and joyous and young in the open face of the country. It gives itself ungrudgingly to the moods of the season, holding nothing back." - Willa Cather "No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, no culture comparable to that of the garden ... But though an old man, I am but a young gardener." - Thomas Jefferson, Garden Book, 1811 "Tread softly! A signpost in one garden reads: Your feet are killing me!" "The problem with property is that it takes so much of your time." - Willem de Kooning "In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt." - Margaret Atwood "If a healthy soil is full of death, it is also full of life: worms, fungi, microorganisms of all kinds ... Given only the health of the soil, nothing that dies is dead for very long." - Wendell Berry, The Unsettling of America, 1977 "The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance, the wise grows it under his feet." - James Oppenheim "A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people." - Franklin D. Roosevelt "Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair." - Kahlil Gibran

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