From the ground up

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 11, 2007

&8220;This is one of only two in the state. The other is at Auburn University.&8221;

Those were Keith Adair&8217;s words as he showed us the soil observation pit in construction at Montevallo High School, where he teaches agriscience.

What in the world is a soil observation pit?

&8220;It&8217;s a wonderful teaching tool. This pit is about 6 feet by 20 feet and it is 7 feet deep. The one at Auburn is about 10 feet deep. There will be steps going down. We have smoothed the sides, put a drain in the bottom and a roof overhead.

The sides of the opening will be lined with plexi-glass and the top edges will be filled in and planted with shrubs,&8221; Adair explained.

&8220;The students will be able to see the profile of the soils and to judge the layers of soils and see the root systems of the plants as they grow and expand. This will allow students to gain knowledge for the land judging contest offered by the FFA.&8221;

A Cawaco Natural Resource Conservation grant was used to build the soil pit and will be shared with other schools and the community. A newly finished 22 feet by 50 feet greenhouse was built with another Cawaco grant.

Fall plans include a small fish pond and golf green.

Adair talked with us as a beehive of activity surrounded him. Students were cleaning and storing equipment for the summer, smoothing a garden spot and planting flowers around a new sign. About a third of MHS students go through Adair&8217;s popular classes.

He emphasized that 80 percent of his students will head to college and about 25 percent plan to major in agriculture. Both the college-bound and job-bound will benefit from the classes. Adair said nursery and landscape is now the number one agricultural industry in Shelby County.

The new soil observation pit is just one example of the innovative learning projects Adair provides his students. He knows, without a doubt, that his classes are very important and seems to relay that to the students &8220;Whatever they learn here, they will use all of their lives,&8221; remarked the instructor.

Catherine Legg can be reached by email at