The Whole Kids Foundation, a foundation of Austin, Texas-based natural grocer Whole Foods Market, has launched a free organic education mobile app, offering a “fun way for kids and parents to learn what it looks and feels like to grow food in harmony with nature.”
“Starting with Soil” is a tablet-based app that functions as an interactive story in four chapters. The first three demonstrate how nature creates soil and how long the process takes, the importance of pollinators, and the critical roles that animals, the weather, microorganisms and cover crops play in organic farming. The final chapter presents ways that families can explore organic education at home, in school, in the community or while they shop.
Available for iOS and Android devices, the app was created with support from Providence, R.I.-based natural foods distributor United Natural Foods Inc., and in partnership with the Center for Ecoliteracy, a Berkeley, Calif.-based organization with more than 20 years of experience in designing effective curricula for children.
“We wanted to create a playful way to help kids understand the importance of healthy soil and see firsthand the roles that plants, animals and people play in keeping it balanced,” said Nona Evans, president and executive director of Whole Kids Foundation. “We think it’s critical kids understand where food comes from, the process it goes through to land on our plates, and the significant effects these processes have on our environment, communities and bodies.”
Slow-motion video allows children to behold bees pollinating and butterflies extracting nectar with startling zeal. Time-lapse photography captures the way that apple, radish and bean seeds become seedlings that burst through topsoil in vibrant color. Nematodes, algae and protozoa make cameo appearances. Young users can plant seeds, build a compost pile, drag a microscope over organisms in soil to get a better look, and view the symbiosis at work when corn, beans and squash are planted together, as Native Americans have done for centuries. Animation and well-placed sound effects tie the content together.
The app is designed at a third-grade reading level. Environmental educators and teachers with access to school gardens will appreciate the central message: Soil is alive, riveting and vital. School gardens are becoming an increasingly common educational tool; they are shown to improve children’s behavior and performance at school, as well as their attitudes about, and appreciation, for the environment. Children who grow their own food are also more likely to eat fruits and vegetables and to be more knowledgeable about nutrition.