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S o i l To d ay   S o i l

S p e c i a l F e a t u r e : O r g a n i s m o f t h e Ye a r !

Volume 1, Issue 1 May 23,2014

Inside this issue:

Why Ants?


Arlington Garden


Why Ants (cont.)


The Speck of Life


The Chalk Lines


That Style


Letters from Editors


S o i l To d ay   S o i l

S p e c i a l F e a t u r e : O r g a n i s m o f t h e Ye a r !

Why ants? To all of you that have eagerly awaited the results of the Soil Organism of the Year contest, the votes have been taken, the results are in, and the Soil Organisms of the Year are...ants! Ants- they’re everywhere. When most of us think about ants, we picture a ruined picnic at the park, our sandwiches covered in black dots. Truth be told, ants actually help us in more ways than we know. The three main reasons ants were chosen as Soil Organisms of the year were their habits of decomposition, their ability to aerate the soil, and their key role in the soil food web. Using these methods, ants help us overcome the loss of our topsoil. For many years, the problem of soil loss has been overlooked and kept as a secret to the public. Soil supplies us with our food, both directly through plants and indirectly through animals who require plants or plant eating animals to survive. In addition, the diversity of soils allows for the diversity of plant life. Without soil, the entire world would be at a loss. Luckily, our editors have gotten their hands on some important information regarding the disappearance of soil and have decided to release it to their readers. Topsoil loss is a growing problem- affecting 200,000 square kilometers of our world, and that number is rapidly increasing. The need for more food to support our population is clear. Monocrops such as commodity corn are more popular than ever, and farming companies are rushing to fill our plates with cheap, chemically “enhanced” foods. As they do so, they are weakening the structure of our topsoil, the first three feet of nutrient-rich dirt. Plants such as commodity corn being planted quickly and carelessly are using up organic matter in the soil without giving it back to continue the cycle. Organic matter is necessary to keep the ground fertile and able to produce healthy plants. We’re losing our healthy soil because of excessive farming and weathering from wind and water, and we need more organic matter to close the gap. This brings us back to our 2014 winners: ants. In our current conditions, the role of decomposers in helping the soil becomes more and more important. Decomposers break down organic materials like animal flesh and dead plants. Ants will eat and decompose almost anything, from fungi and other insects to decaying animal flesh. By decomposing these organic materials, they extract carbon from their food that combines with oxygen to create carbon dioxide. This carbon dioxide either floats in the atmosphere, to be used by plants in photosynthesis, or enters groundwater and forms carbonic acid. Carbonic acid is a huge contributor to chemical weathering and the creation of new soil. The decomposition process also releases nutrients into the soil such as nitrogen, which helps with plant growth. When ants aid in decomposition, they give back to the earth and help us regain some of the organic material we’ve lost, add more soil to make up for what has been weathered away, and ultimately give us more healthy food!

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History of Arlington Garden By Faith `

Caption describing picture or graphic.

In the words of

Since 1961 there had been an empty lot in the City of Pasadena, Ca. The three acre lot was owned by Caltrans, who were going to have the site be a staging area for the construction of the 710 freeway. Betty and Charles “Kicker” McKenney and many others had had the idea to make a friendly garden since the neighbors in the area were interested in a laid-back development. Council member Steve Madison was the man who got the project of conducting a garden to start. The garden was inspired “by Jan Smithen's book Sun Drenched Gardens: The Mediterranean Style and is designed by Mayita Dinos.” Without the help from “Arlington Garden in Pasadena, a nonprofit corporation, the City of Pasadena, through its Public Works Department, and the Pasadena Water and Power Department, with help from the Mediterranean Garden Society in Pasadena and Pasadena Beautiful Foundation” Arlington Garden would not exist today. Now many public and private schools use the garden as an outdoor laboratory. Today Arlington Garden is a public garden, which allows visitors to come and enjoy the beautiful scenery.

Why Ants? (continued)

Martin Luther King Jr., “Even if I knew hat tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.”

Caption describing picture or graphic.

Organic material and nutrients also need a path to pass through to the soil. Ants help us with that, too! As they build their underground nests, they stir up the soil, effectively moving it around and creating a path for the organic materials to enter the soil. Ants don’t just give the soil more organic matter- they welcome nutrients into the dirt with long, narrow tunnels that allow for easy entry. Lastly, ants are a key part of the soil food web. They provide sustenance for a number of larger soil-abiding animals such as burrowing mammals and lizards. These animals also help the soil in their own ways, so when ants help to keep them alive they are unknowingly setting off a chain of helpful reactions that keep our soil healthy and fertile! We need these animals too- many of them were also considered for this contest. Without ants, they would not get the food they need to survive and the soil food web would be at a major unbalance. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr., “Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.” Ants are setting us up for the future- we can’t deny that topsoil loss is a big problem, but we can still learn from ants and do something about it. Helping the soil is a noble cause, and just like the hard-working ant, we should tackle our soil loss problems inch by inch.

Soil Today

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The Speck of Life Above me, spiny green needles pierce the empty air Obscuring a small brown bird surrounded by dark spikes Whose twangy call echoes around me. My eyes rest on a clump of pink flowers In elegant shades of magenta. I lift my head to smell one delicate petal, but Then I am startled, taken aback. A small dark speck rests in the nest of petals. I jerk my head backward and pause upon sighting the bug. Why should I turn back? Is it the bug’s tiny black pinchers Or its beady eyes covered in a glassy sheen? When I see the small bug, I can only think Of a bee’s sting or a mosquito’s bite. A nuisance and a pest. My eyes wander to another flower Within the bunch, covered in shade. Its petals clumped together. Suddenly, I see it. All of the younger magenta blossoms struggling to open their petals to the sun. Leaning out of the pine needle shade. They need to spread their seeds in the sunlight. For something to bring that tiny pollen grain to the stigma, They need that sleepy bug. Do we really have to live in a world in which the bigger people Live in disgust of those that are smaller inside? Is that what we have come to? ~ Sarah

The Chalk Lines By:


As I first step onto the field the field between the chalk lines I stand on earth not just any earth the soil of the earth As I begin to traipse with every step I take I dig my mighty cleat into the earth’s soil With each and every step that I take I accumulate a little bit of the earth's soil As the actual game begins there’s a great chance that I will fall into the earth’s soil Every game that I have ever played the one player that always goes down is the keeper

“One Wild and Precious Life” By Faith Above me lies a world untouched While looking in the distance I realize that the trees, plants and animals have been untouched too I try to image if the sounds are the same in the distance as they are here Does it smell the same Does it smell like fresh and earthly air Can you feel the wind whipping across your neck The earthliness of the multi colored plants is to much too bear The pieces of wood missing The height from the ground The blooming of the flowers The chirps of the birds and the sun shining on all

True Nature My sneakers fall to the ground with a thud. My socks flop to the side, and My feet dig into the earthy soil. The soil dances up to meet them. With a yell to the sky, a barbaric yawp, I run through the fields. When I laugh and frolic with my friends in nature, Shouting in fascination as I examine an everyday blade of grass, It rings a distant bell. The bell is old and rusted Rusted with pixilated cubes of grass. To the point where nature has been rewritten in my head as A dull glow on the screen. When did I lose my connection to the soil? Suddenly I tumble down the hill, rolling As if I were in kindergarten. Wind rushing through my body and coursing through my veins. Yes, I do remember. When each little grain of dust was important to me. I channel that energy, embracing the wind, Knowing that the wind is also there for the soil. The weathered rocks will eventually become dirt, Soft and cold dust that floats up around my toes. I feel so alive as I roll down the hill one last time, Rejoicing in my memories. Soon, it is time. I roll my socks up my ankles And stuff my excited, sweaty feet into my shoes. Class time. An hour later I face a screen once more, Looking at a harshly defined brown block labeled “dirt.” As I punch it with my pixelated hands, It just doesn’t feel as special. ~ Sarah

Forgiving Soil By: Aleen

The crisp, clean air

When we stomp on the very thing

Runs through my messy strands of hair

Which helps us stay alive.

As I sprint to find more plants.

We are put into the very soil that absorbs and decomposes our wrongs

The sharp smell of mustard

Soil forgives us.

The long thorns scratching Across my legs.

Soil Just beneath our feet

I see the dirt paths

Supporting us

That I stop to acknowledge


As I sprint up the side of the hills.

Of what we do, Soil forgives us.

I reach the top and look down I see how high I stand now

Wherever you are

On top of this hill.

You have to come back To soil

I feel the air running through my hair

The same soil.

As I slide down the side of the hill.

Soil forgives us.

I land on the soft, forgiving soil.

Where do I find that style? This Weeks Edition… Eyewear Apple Reds in Salvatore Pearragamo glasses! Banana Clair in glasses from

• •

Lemon Skweez in Carentino Turnup Turnip in APEL Milan

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Lime Turner in Pearmenta Orange Ores in Lemoneal

Pea Collins in PODS

Carrot Furges in Juicy Orange

Volume 1, Issue 1

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They Are the Ones Who Watch the Stars Above me, I see the spread wings of the green creature which gives me my shade. It is tied with ropes to hold its overwhelming weight. I see the metal pin which keeps the pole sturdy,

To my right, A golden sun shining through the middle of two trees, The same sun which eventually sets. I squint my eyes.

So the bird doesn’t drop her massive wings.

I daydream

I smell the sweet dirt as it floats past my face.

Blue, blue, blue.

The bitter aroma of coffee and sage mixed with a hint of rosemary. The soft wood of the birch tree, Along with the leaves of the grape vines.

From the tip of my finger to the end of my palm, I feel the shaved dog in the form of a Phthalo green leaf. The thin veins that run up and down, To catch the falling rain.

I hear the cries of the baby birds, Who watch me very closely as I stare into their small black eyes. The leaves which crunch under the feet of my classmates. Who laugh as they follow the carved paths of the garden.

As I try to find something in the distance.

Is that all that this world bares?

I see the waves that crash in the sky. The white foam which borders the end of each wave. A pillow for the people of the paradise to lie on, As they watch the stars. By. Aleen

Magazine Editors Get Together: To Help the Soil! by Sarah

Last week a group of editors from many different soil magazines, including Soil Today, got together to help rid Rubio Canyon of its invasive mustard plants. Although many people don’t think about it, mustard comes from a plant, and that plant is not native to California! Invasive plants are a threat to native California plants because they steal soil space from them and usually end up damaging the soil. Mustard plants lined the hills of Rubio canyon for as far as we could see. We got to work quickly, yanking up each mustard plant from its roots and stuffing it into a garbage bag. We made major headway on the hill, and we filled almost forty bags of mustard plants! During the weeding process, we even found a few bones that looked like they were from a coyote. It was a very exciting experience overall, and it was really nice for all of the soil magazine editors to work together while helping the soil.

“Letter from the Editor” By: Faith During the final two weeks of school, the seventh grade class at Westridge embarked on the Soil Unit. During the Soil Unit, we have learned different things about the earth like community gardens, how to collect bacteria samples, etc. We have also done a lot of things to help the community for example; we have performed service in the Arroyo foothills, Rubio and Millard canyons. We didn't just go places to help out, we also helped at school. We also learned how a lot of people use pesticides and chemicals to help grow plants, and they give their animals antibiotics to make them grow faster. On one of the first days of the soil group, we went to Rubio Canyon. We were divided into two groups, the “Fantastic Fungi” and “Wonderful Worms.” The “Wonderful Worms” went somewhere in the foothills too. I was part of the “Fantastic Fungi” group. To get to Rubio Canyon, we took a bus up to Altadena. Once we got to the site for our group, we met up with the man that was going to be instructing us. Our job while we were there was to weed all of the mustard plants. We were told to weed these particular plants out because they are an invasive species to California and they aren’t native. While we were weeding the mustard plants, we were able to go anywhere in the eyesight of the teachers. While we were weeding, we were climbing very high on the cliffs and pulling out the mustard plants, which was really fun. After we had pulled out the mustard plants, we needed to put them into plastic bags. At the very end, we had to role between 15-20 bags of mustard weeds down the hill. This was a great experience because we got to learn about some of the native and nonnative plants that are in California. So now when I am walking around in my neighborhood and see any mustard plants, I will pull them out because they are an invasive species to California. During the second week of the soil unit, we stayed at school and had some different visitors come. We had a total of eight visitors come and help teach us about the different things. For example, I learned about more ways to plant plants, how much sunlight certain plants need, etc. While the visitors were here we did five different activities. We worked on the Rain garden and Wildflower garden, which was our last activity of the day to do. We made seed balls and newspaper pots to hold the seeds and take home with us at the end of the day. One of my favorite activites that we did was the tree walk because we got to learn about the trees that are in our everyday environment. We also got the chance to work in the herb garden that we have in school which was really cool, because I got to try a couple of different herbs that I have never tried before. And the last activity that we got to do was guerrilla vermicomposting, which was when we got to saw some pipes in half and put worms inside of them. This was really fun to do because it gave you a variety of different things to try and learn about. Throughout the course of the soil unit, I have learned different things about the earth's soil and other features of the earth too. One of my favorite things that I learned was about the different trees that I am surrounded by every day when I am at school. I didn’t realize how much I actually knew about trees until I went on this tree walk. Ibelieve that it is great that the seventh graders get to experience the water and soil units. They have taught different things about the problems that are going on around the world.

Dear Readers of “Soil Today” Under everyone’s feet, wherever they are...dirt. A unit on flimsy brown dust? It didn’t make much sense to me at first, when I heard about the upcoming “Soil Unit.” The Water Unit seemed more logical, because everyone knows that we need water in order to survive. However, in my generation people just don’t stop to consider what they’re trampling on from class to class. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Soil is more than just the ground, it’s the foundation of life. Without soil, there wouldn’t be plants, without plants, there wouldn’t be herbivores, without herbivores, there wouldn’t be carnivores or omnivores. Soil provides us with the essence of life by allowing plants to grow, which give us food and oxygen. Not only that, soil allows for the diversity of life through the diversity of soil. No sooner did I come to appreciate soil than I was taught about the threats to it. Disappearing topsoil, loss of organic matter...the list went on from there. I found out that excessive and irresponsible farming had weakened the soil, robbed it of its organic matter, and allowed wind and water to simply carry it away. We didn’t just sit there and accept those problems, though. During our unit, when we weren’t learning about how important soil was to life or how it was being damaged, we were taking active steps to protect it! We helped rid the soil of invasive plants that were taking the nutrients away from native California plants, we planted responsible and healthy rain gardens that preserved water while stabilizing the soil, and we took home seeds to plant in our own backyards! I felt a lot more like an upstander as I stood up for the soil. I’ll never forget how it felt to uproot a mustard plant and tumble down a hill with it, springing back up for more. I won’t forget that feeling of appreciation towards soil as I ran barefoot in it after learning about its importance. After this unit, I will always remember how important the soil is, and I’ll never look at a grain of dust the same way. ~ Sarah

Letter from the Editor! Aleen 5/27/14

Greetings and a warm welcome to our issue of Soil Today! Hello readers, thank you for taking time to read our magazine. We have all had such a great experience throughout last weeks. I personally loved the work stations we had on Tuesday with our friends from the Arboretum. We did everything! From making soil seed bombs, (balls of soil and seeds which when hits water, sprouts a plant) and learning about the Xia dynasty from 2070 – 1600 BC (and the ginkgoes they planted). I loved sprinting up the hills of Rubio Canyon and climbing the steep slopes to grab the mustard plants on the hills. Climbing then tumbling back down just to climb up again. The feeling of finally getting to the top, looking down at all the work I did. It was an amazing experience for me. After all our work, we ran around and found the bones of a decomposed coyote. What helped decompose that coyote? That’s right, SOIL! Soil is everywhere and helps with almost everything. We eat products grown in soil, it helps up build, we walk on it and it collects many of the earth’s harmful chemicals. I learned so much about soil in the six days of Soil Unit. In the beginning of Soil Unit, I thought it would be super boring and that soil was just for growing flowers. Now I know that without soil, we wouldn’t be on earth. Or it’s more correct to say that there would be no earth. No animals, humans, plants or basically no life on earth.

Rolling With Daises‌ Aleen

I lie down on the soft green needles Close my tired eyes. I think of how soil sustains all life. How can we take it for granted?

I grasp a little white daisy, Lying alone without a companion. I hold it tight. Not risking it flying away.

I see children skipping, rolling I decide to join them Teach them how to roll down the hills. I am secretly teaching them my childhood.

I tumble down the hill As if it will make time stop. I finally reach the bottom I lie there.

The daisy is still in my pocket Slowly dying It will one day become Soil.

Delicate. As fragile as the first flower after the long winter and as I yearn to show its beauty to the world, I am scared.

To lose it to have it break, wither and fall, and so I grasp the soil with tender hands and tender hopes.

I return to reality and walk towards the voices of my friends. They laugh and play But I am still thinking about my daisy. I continue to walk.

To my right I see The tree planted three years ago. How has it grown so much? I wonder.

I look down at the soil by the tree. Brown, regular-looking soil. I think about how soil hugs the roots How it protects the tree.

I take off my shoes to feel the moist, soft soil. I think about how we see dirt every day; However, we still don’t care about how the soil has created Us.

Soil magazine faith aleen sarah a  

7th grade Soil Unit 2014 Faith Aleen SarahA

Soil magazine faith aleen sarah a  

7th grade Soil Unit 2014 Faith Aleen SarahA