Sunday, October 23, 2016

2016 Region V Soil Judging - Epilogue (or, 6 reasons to hire a Soil Judger!)

As Soil Judging comes to a close for the fall semester, I am extremely proud of our team and their 1st place in Group Judging. This fall's class was the largest ever (18 registered students, 14 of whom traveled to Nebraska) and had no shortage of passion, enthusiasm, inquisitiveness, and love for the soil resource!

Although we missed ASA Nationals this year, a portion of our team will be traveling to the NACTA contest (hosted by Kansas State University) in April, 2017. If you've been around Soil Judging for more than a minute (and certainly, I hope, if you've been on any of my teams), you know that results are secondary to the educational and skill development opportunities that Soil Judging provides. Often, the black and white boxscores don't translate to the value of the educational experience or the depth of knowledge of the participants - for example, this fall we had an unbelievable number of high-level conversations about geomorphology, hydrology and soil formation; and our Minnesota students were the most highly engaged group in asking and answering questions posed by our Nebraska host, Dr. Paul Hanson - questions that often went beyond the scope of the contest and scorecards.

With that being said, some of our Judgers are graduating in December. Here are 6 reasons to hire a Soil Judger!:

1. Trained Observers. Soil Judgers are trained observers, individuals who can recognize subtleties in soil materials and landscapes. These observational skills translate well into many other disciplines and tasks - you can be sure a Judger won't let any clues slide by them!
Stefan Swenson, Kathleen Hobert, Dom Christensen, and Andrea Williams making observations of soil morphology in a Nebraska Hapludalf. 
2. Fieldcraft. Our Soil Judgers are practiced in fieldcraft. They understand the value of a positive attitude in less-than-ideal conditions; they come prepared to work in all weather, without assumptions that things will be "provided"; and they know that Rite-In-The-Rain paper is one of the greatest inventions of the modern world!!
No problems on a windy, wet, rainy day for this group - still smiling after 8 hours in the field!
3. Rational Decision-Making. We train our Soil Judgers to make rational decisions. In other words, according to any good dictionary: decisions which are "based on or in accordance with reason or logic" or "based in reason or understanding". If you ask any of our Judgers why they made a particular decision, you won't hear any answers such as "someone told me it was this way, so I guess it is this way". Instead, you will hear a reasoned, thought-out response which is logical and related to an understanding of the problem at hand.
Mekuria Zemede completing an individual scorecard.
4. Evidence Based Decision-Making. Not only are Soil Judgers trained to make rational decisions, they are also trained to make evidence-based decisions. In other words, when asked why a particular decision was made, our Judgers will articulate a line of reasoning that cites specific lines of evidence and refers to recorded and quantified observations. Next time, I'll post a video of our group discussing discrepancies in their individual scorecards. You will hear our students expressing their particular line of reasoning based on the evidence at hand, while reconciling the differences in their opinions with the views of others.
Reconciling individual scorecards after an individual practice pit to construct a group consensus scorecard through the Socratic method. Evidence-based arguments for individual decisions are presented and discussed.
5. Functional Team-Members. Our Judgers learn how to work in small teams, respecting team diversity and uniquely contributing to team outcomes.
Andrea Williams, Mari Cartwright, Sara Bauer, Bri Egge, and Mekuria Zemente contributing to a group scorecard.
6. Broader Context. Most of our Judgers have had numerous real-world experiences which have broadened their perspectives and expanded the context they bring to new situations. This helps them calibrate to new landscapes based on a larger pool of accumulated knowledge - a valuable asset!
Murray Hill overlook near Little Sioux, IA - on top of the Loess Hills looking at their Pleistocene source, the Missouri River floodplain.

Thank you again to all of our supporters. Check back in April for updates on our team's travel to Manhattan, Kansas. 

Be at one with your textural triangles!