Growing hearts and minds: Linking landscapes and lifescapes in a soils field course

Nicolas A. Jelinski, Sharon V. Perrone, Hava K. Blair, Morgan L. Fabian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Interacting with practitioners and understanding multiple, contradictory, and complex perspectives is an important skill for effectively managing terrestrial resources in the 21st century. Addressing these needs requires innovative approaches in higher education that elevate student learning outcomes and emphasize the affective learning domain through meaningful, place-based interactions with practitioners. We describe an approach taken to expand a traditional soils field course to include emphasis on higher-level student learning outcomes in the affective learning domain. Following the completion of a week-long field study course in which students gain skills in soil description, classification, and interpretation, the expanded second module of the course includes a traveling component in which students experience soils, landscapes, and “lifescapes” (i.e., the lived experiences of practitioners). This second module incorporates practitioners as the primary source of knowledge and is structured to encourage dialogue, understanding, and co-discovery centered around soils and land management. In unstructured narratives, students identified themes in the affective domain—deep collaboration, personal and professional development and sense of place, community, and joy—as transformational experiences in the course that influenced their personal and professional growth and future ability to interact with people from across the geographic, social, and political spectrum.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere20018
JournalNatural Sciences Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported in part by the University of Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station, project no. AES0025014. The authors thank the editor and two anonymous reviewers for providing constructive comments that significantly improved the quality of the manuscript. The authors wish to thank 38 students who provided anonymous, unstructured narratives of their course experiences, and more than 20 farmers, forest managers, and peat harvesters from across the state of Minnesota who have contributed to the success and effectiveness of this course over the past 3 years. The lead author expresses deep thanks and gratitude to the late Dr. Fred Madison, whose inspirational approach to teaching in field environments and inherent emphasis on the affective learning domain touched the lives of countless peers, students and families. Thank you, Fred, for showing us the way.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Authors. Natural Sciences Education published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. on behalf of American Society of Agronomy


Dive into the research topics of 'Growing hearts and minds: Linking landscapes and lifescapes in a soils field course'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this