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Pullman High Students Get the Dirt on Dirt

Posted by struscott | May 10, 2010

Pullman High School students were recently given a good grounding in soil science by an expert from Washington State University.

Kimberly Cox examines a water sample

Kimberly Cox examines a water sample
Michael Mcfarlane checks out a pond rock

Michael Mcfarlane checks out a pond rock

Todd Lupkes, superintendent of WSU’s Palouse Ridge Golf Club, a graduate of WSU turfgrass management program in the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, has the dirt on dirt. And more importantly, he’s sharing his knowledge with high school students to help them learn about soil, and amplify their interest in agricultural science.

In March, Lupkes gave a soil science lecture to PHS plant science students and then in April invited the class out to the golf course to show them first-hand the science that they were learning about.

“There’s so much science to be found on a golf course. There’s chemistry, physics, biology, ecology — really it’s endless,” said Lupkes. “There’re 100 different things a golf course can teach a class and many people don’t realize that.”

Left to right: Annie Breyman, Krystina Callison, Kimberly Cox, Meg Druffel

Left to right: Annie Breyman, Krystina Callison, Kimberly Cox, Meg Druffel

When Lupkes gave the in-class lecture he brought in different soil samples to go along with a PowerPoint presentation. He was able to not only talk about different root systems, for example, but he was able to show them, and then talk about why there’s a different root system on a green than there is in a fairway.

“At PHS, we’re fortunate to have the university so close to us, but we’re even luckier there’s someone who’s willing to reach out to these students and share their knowledge as well as their facility,” said Jessica Moore, teacher of the plant science class. “Todd was able to illustrate the students of the concepts we had discussed in the classroom through real-life hands-on applications.”

Out on the golf course, Lupkes had the class conduct water quality tests on different wetland areas around the golf course. They tested pH, nitrate, and dissolved oxygen levels and then discussed the results. In addition to water quality tests, Lupkes had discussions with the class regarding water usage on the golf course.

Tyler Surfus

Tyler Surfus
Brittany Smathers

Brittany Smathers

“The students enjoyed the trip out to the golf course and overall I felt it was a valuable experience for everyone involved,” said Moore.

Lupkes based his teachings on a program called First Green Foundation, which is an innovative environmental education outreach program. Through the program, golf course superintendents host students for tours of the golf course. On the tour, students may test water quality, collect soil samples, identify plants and wildlife, as well as learn about the many other aspects of the golf course.

“I think it’s really important to educate students in this manner before they get to college,” said Lupkes. “It gives the Palouse Ridge staff an opportunity to teach and show what really goes with a golf course, as well as expose the students to a different way of learning and challenging them to think on a deeper level.”

By Ashley Scourey