EGU22-12313, updated on 28 Mar 2022
EGU General Assembly 2022
© Author(s) 2022. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

The green, green sands of home: immersive experiences for raising soil awareness

Karen Vancampenhout1,4, Bas Van Der Veken4, Jan Bastiaens3, and Seppe Deckers4
Karen Vancampenhout et al.
  • 1KU Leuven, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Geel, Belgium
  • 3Flanders Heritage Agency, Brussel, Belgium
  • 4KU Leuven, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Leuven, Belgium

With one third of the world's fertile topsoil lost and most of the rest in a poor condition, there is no doubt that soils need more attention in society in general and in education in particular. Nevertheless, connecting people to soils in a current context of urbanisation and digitalisation is not straigtforward. We think that one of the hurdles in improving this soil connectivity is getting rid of the 'big brown blob': soils are often depicted as a dumbed-down, generic, boring brown structures even in educational graphics or pamflets. Obviously, it's difficult to get people exited about that. 

Only a very limited amount of people, often only in higher education, gets to experience what soils are actually like. In collaboration with educational experts, artists and landscape and heritage experts, we started a series of immersive educational and art projects. The concept was to spike people's interest by showing them the beauty and viariablilty of soils in landscapes, muze on their peculiarities and reflect on how the world above is influenced by what is hidden beneath. Soil monoliths, as life-like representations of actual landscapes, were combined to art installations indoors as well as in the field and coupled to the work of graphical and word artists, and how they percieve the soil. We also created digital below-ground 'tours' of how soils manifest themselves in the stories of our landscapes. In particular, our installations featuring Podzols and greensands were very popular, as they provide a quite dramatic and visually appealing spectacle that most people would not expect to find in soils. 

By immersing people into a world they usually have no access to, our goal was to evoke intrinsic interest and wonder by including them in the educational process, i.e. giving them the opportunity to do their own discoveries rather than talking to them about something they would have very little instrinsic affection to. In this contribution, we will highlight the main techniques we used and lessons we learned from the persons that contributed to visited our work. 

How to cite: Vancampenhout, K., Van Der Veken, B., Bastiaens, J., and Deckers, S.: The green, green sands of home: immersive experiences for raising soil awareness, EGU General Assembly 2022, Vienna, Austria, 23–27 May 2022, EGU22-12313,, 2022.