Montessori School Students Dig Into Soil Science

April 8, 2015, 8:30 AM HST · Updated April 8, 8:32 AM
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6th Grade students Taiger Ogasawara and Duke Kapua

6th Grade students Taiger Ogasawara and Duke Kapua. Courtesy photo.

By Maui Now Staff

Seven Montessori School of Maui students in grades six to eight have been participating in an ongoing scientific study.

The study explores indigenous microorganisms and Korean Natural Farming practices and their effects on Hawaiian garden soil.

Led by Montessori School of Maui’s Garden Resource Teacher Scott Lacasse, the ongoing study began in September 2014 and will continue through May 2015.

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As part of the experiment, the students extracted baseline soil samples and sent them to Cornell University’s Nutrient Analysis Lab for a soil health assessment.

After creating an indigenous microorganism application made of natural ingredients that are combined and fermented in different stages (IMO4), they applied the IMO4 to two separate raised garden beds. One bed contained only soil and the other was composed of soil and compost.

Two additional beds are serving as scientific controls.

Lettuce crops were planted in all four beds. After five months, a second round of soil samples were taken and submitted to Cornell for testing.

When the data is returned, the students will analyze and compare it to the baseline soil sample findings to note differences affected by the variables. Each student will then write a scientific paper about the experiment.

The group has also created a video documenting the entire process, which they presented at the Hawaiʻi Farmers Union meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2015, along with their findings to-date.

Garden Resource Teacher Scott Lacasse

Garden Resource Teacher Scott Lacasse. Courtesy photo.

Lacasse was inspired to create the project with the students after attending the “Restoring the Soul of Hawaiʻi’s Soil” workshop last May. He said they look forward to completing the study this May and sharing the final results with everyone who has been involved throughout the process–including the community of Maui.

“We are so excited to have a project of this caliber happening at our school,” commented Montessori School of Maui Head of School René Anderson-Vorfeld. “Scott and this team of students are bringing together science acumen from the classroom and hands-on skills developed in our Garden Classroom to teach us how to improve our gardening methods and help become better stewards of our precious land.”

The project was funded by a grant from the Maui Economic Development Committee and administered through the Hawaiian Farmer’s Union Maui Chapter.

For more information about the study, email Lacasse.

Find out more about Montessori School of Maui online or by calling (808) 573-0374.

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