Educational Checkpoint #3 Data Collection

Welcome everyone to Educational Checkpoint #3 of the 2021 Soil your Undies challenge.

Welcome to the final educational checkpoint for the 2021 Soil Your Undies Challenge! This is the most important checkpoint for us as this stage is where we as scientists can gather the all important data that can answer the question: Why?

Why is this soil healthy? Why is that soil unhealthy? What can be done to improve that soil?

Join Kieran and Oliver as we take a look at collecting the data that will answer those questions.

Some examples of common acids and alkalines might be:

  • Citric acid – found in citrus fruits
  • Acetic acid – the acid found in vinegar
  • Battery Acids – Batteries often use a strong acid to create the chemical reaction that produces electricity
  • Sodium Bicarbonate – Baking soda is weakly alkaline
  • Sodium Hydroxide – the strong Alkaline in drain cleaner capable of dissolving organic matter such as food scraps, hair, and mould

Why do we need all this data?

In an experiment like Soil Your Undies, there are many different factors that can affect how fast our cotton undies break down. If there is almost nothing left of our undies when we dig them up, we know that we have very healthy soil with lots of biological activity. Undies that hardly get broken down at all might not be breaking down for several different reasons. By asking a few extra questions, we can gather information that can help us understand why some undies aren’t breaking down as much as others, and we can learn what we need to do in order to improve the health of those soils. Looking at just one pair of undies doesn’t help us very much though; we need hundreds of undies so that we can make comparisons and find patterns in the data.


Design your own experiment!

The activity this week will be to fill out your data collection sheet, and then to ponder the variables that we’ve thought about to come up with your own experiment. Where do you think will be the healthiest and lest healthy soils in your schools or home gardens?


What if we’re still in lockdown?

In an ideal world, your students would go out as a group and take a look at the burial site in person, however this is obviously not going to be possible for many participants. If you are not learning face to face, you may wish to lead this discussion showing a photo or video showing the burial site for extra context. The students might nominate different areas of their school that they are familiar with that could be investigated further when face to face learning resumes, or they may wish to look at different areas of their own gardens. Even the soil between different pot plants can vary depending on how they’re managed. The goal here is to develop scientific thinking: developing an idea and figuring out how to test it.

For the participation prize, photos of this checkpoint are not necessary as long as we get that data collection sheet returned to us. This can be either sent back with the undies after exhumation, or scanned and submitted with the photos at the end of the challenge.


What about the results map?

After we get all of the undies sent back to us we want to be able to upload photos of all of them to the Cotton Info Results Map. The map has almost 100 undies on it already, from farmers and schools located all over Australia. These are from previous challenges and individual projects and are contributing to an overall measure of Australia’s soil health!

We would love to upload all 300 undies from this year’s challenge as well. On the data collection sheet we have asked if you would like us to upload a photo of your undies to the map, and if so please circle “Yes”. You are more than welcome to upload your own photo to the map, and if you would prefer to do this, please circle “No”. This is just to help us avoid accidentally uploading the same pair of undies multiple times. No identifying information is attached to the photos uploaded on the map.


We will see you again soon when we dig up the undies!

Download - Parent/Teacher Information Sheet
Download - Data Collection Sheet