Teaching Soils!

One of our responsibilities as soil specialists and also one of the great joys is to pass on our knowledge to others. I was given just such opportunity when I was asked to be a guest lecturer in the forensic archaeology adult learning class. My remit – teach them about soils and burials! So the gauntlet thrown I raced head long into working out what my learning outcome and teaching goals for the lesson should be!

The class was a mixture of adult learners who just wanted to know more about the forensic side of archaeological science and those wanting to be get accredited for the module. We started off by getting the class to think about what a soil actually was and what sort of information it might be able to give us about burials by producing a word cloud. Then straight into the main presentation, the class were a very quiet group but after some chatting we managed to get them interacting and talking about the different aspects of soil formation processes and taphonomy. The highlight of the lesson was a great little soil description exercise where I asked all of the students to bring in soil from their homes (I also brought a selection). This let the class get to grips with the techniques used in both soil science and forensic archaeology. It was a great activity and the class really enjoyed it!

We then went on to talk briefly about the soil chemistry, although I think in future I may need to find a more user friendly way to present this information! And then spent the last part of the lecture looking at examples of the use of soils in criminal investigations using Petraco, N., Kubic, T.A., Petraco, N.D.K., 2008. Case studies in forensic soil examinations, Forensic Science International 178, e23-e27.


Students getting to grips with soil!


Students deciding which soil looks the most interesting!