Mary Patterson headshot

Mary Patterson is an instructor for the Kansas City Kansas Community College Saturday Academy, a teen program partially funded by the ARISE project.

I live in Wyandotte County, which sits between the Missouri and Kansas River in Northeast Kansas. This part of Kansas City has a long and rich history of diversity. In the 1800’s, the “Free” City of Quindaro was located here—a safe haven for slaves who braved the ice crossing of the Missouri River to freedom. Today, there is no ethnic majority in Wyandotte, with residents of many different ethnicities living here.

To enrich the lives of youth in this area, we have a Saturday Academy program co-led by the University of Kansas Medical Center, USD 500 School District, and Kansas City Kansas Community College. Roughly 100 students come to KCKCC every other Saturday for a day of breakfast, lunch, teambuilders, poetry, technology, and science modules. KCKCC is celebrating its 100-year anniversary this year, and has offered the Saturday Academy for almost a quarter of a century!

I am one of three instructors for the academy’s Data Science Module. With funding from ARISE, I lead students through infrastructure-related activities. Last year we studied air and water quality. This year we are studying soil.

Students are creating a map of soil quality at KCKCC with Google Earth Pro. They recently took their soil sampling tools, a moisture meter, a clipboard and a cell phone to specific areas on campus to collect the data.

5 students standing in the grass, one leans down to take a soil sample

Once longitude and latitude were determined, soil samples were taken, a water reading was read and recorded and students brought their samples back to the lab for chemical analysis.

3 students in a lab, one is pipetting a sample

In the lab the soil samples were tested for nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and acidity. These were mapped on our Google Earth Pro map with all the data.

Finally, students learned about the great Green Wall being built across Africa to slow soil erosion. We tested water soil runoff from soil with grass growing and bare soil. It was a great way to show students the importance of no-till farming!  The teachers had quite a bit to clean up after the labs were finished but it was all worth it! Next semester we will study soil contamination and remediation.

2 students in a laboratory, one in purple gloves holds a beaker

Being part of ARISE has been a fantastic way to connect with researchers in Kansas and to learn about infrastructure. These connections and collaborations have allowed our Saturday Academy students to learn more about careers and the world around them.