'Soil your underwear' and other fun ways to learn about science

'Soil your underwear' and other fun ways to learn about science

FOREST PARK — If you’re not a farmer, you might never think about the intricacies of soil. But walk into the GROW Pavilion at the Saint Louis Science Center (SLSC), and it all becomes a lot clearer—and a lot more complicated. 

GROW hosted an Urban Ag Day on Saturday, inviting the public to learn about urban agriculture techniques through classes, lectures, and interactive exhibits. Topics included bee keeping, composting, and water, along with a host of others designed to make urban agriculture more accessible to the public. 

The GROW Pavilion itself houses a display of soil samples from each one of the 54 states and territories of the United States. On permanent loan from the Smithsonian, this exhibit is meant to give SLSC visitors a better understanding of how soil varies throughout the US. 

Overall, employees at the SLSC hope that both Urban Ag Day and the GROW Pavilion in general help bring science to the people.

“Topics of science are usually inaccessible to people,” said Tony DiMeglio, who works as a Science Educator at the SLSC. To aid with this, his team created the Soil Your Underwear Challenge that was featured as part of the Urban Ag Day. 

The ready-made kits included tools and instructions for various science experiments. But instead of using the word ‘experiment,’ DiMeglio framed it as a ‘Look-and-See,’ which he said makes science feel less intimidating, especially to children.

That’s one of the goals for the GROW Pavilion, said exhibit manager Maddie Earnest. Of the pavilion’s beginnings, she said, “The Saint Louis Science Center wanted to focus on something that’s very relevant to the region, and because of where we’re located, the Midwest, agriculture is most certainly a huge part of not only our state and our economy… but also a lot of industry. We’re becoming kind of known as a biotech industry as well… Being able to showcase that and talk about that was a big impetus for starting the exhibit.” 

Urban Ag Day, she said, plays a huge part in bringing agricultural literacy to Missouri citizens. “Many people have never been up close to a soybean plant, or a cotton plant, or sorghum. These things that are grown larger scale.” 

Overall, she said she hopes an event like Urban Ag Day will “teach and inspire people to learn about agriculture in all forms.”