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Cultivating Functional Academics: Digging into World Soil Day

Hello Special Education Champions,

Happy World Soil Day! Today, on December 5th, let’s consider engaging in an exciting journey of cross-curricular soil exploration tailored specifically for our diverse students, each navigating their unique abilities and complex learning support needs. Join me in uncovering fertile ground for cultivating curiosity and essential functional academic skills. 

Elementary Soil Sensations:

Imagine immersing your elementary students in the wonders of soil through functional academic extended lessons of engagement. Begin with captivating tales like Oliver and His Alligator or Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt. These stories not only spark imaginations but also introduce vital soil concepts in a way that resonates with their learning styles.

Now, picture the engagement in your functional classroom at the eagerly awaited “Dirt Dig” station. Equip students with pretend OR real shovels, sifters, and an array of soil samples for a sensory-rich experience. Pebbles, flower bulbs, worms, and beetles become the subjects of their exploration. Post-dig, encourage them to express their discoveries through Google images, artwork, and descriptive words, fostering both scientific understanding and language development.

As an instructional coach supporting a teacher with a non-verbal student and diverse learning needs, consider alternative modes of expression. For the non-verbal learner, encourage the use of visual aids, such as pictures or symbols, to communicate their findings. Facilitate peer collaboration, allowing each student to contribute uniquely.

Middle School Soil Explorers:

Focusing on our middle schoolers, envision with me a deeper exploration guided by texts on erosion, decomposition, and nutrient cycles tailored to their reading levels. Ensure comprehension and vocabulary acquisition in context. Picture them crafting persuasive letters advocating for soil conservation, not just demonstrating knowledge but also honing valuable written communication skills.

In your role as a special education teacher, focus on fostering scientific curiosity through engaging experiments like pH testing or permeability studies. Leverage visual aids and hands-on activities to make complex concepts accessible, ensuring meaningful participation for every student, regardless of their learning style.

Transition-Age Triumphs:

For our transition students, the soil becomes ground for cultivating essential job skills. As their instructional coach, encourage exploration of career pathways in conservation, landscaping, agriculture, and soil science. Guide them through researching entrance requirements, job duties, and available training options. Introduce practical experiences like filling out internship applications, an authentic step toward building independent living skills. I know how important it is to connect our programs to life after high school.  Our team at SDES has some additional resources to check out HERE.

This World Soil Day, let’s tailor our lessons to sow seeds of inquiry, literacy, and functional academic skills across grade and ability levels. As an engaged and creative teacher, infuse humor and creativity into these lessons, turning potential challenges into engaging opportunities. Through soil-centric activities, let’s nurture curious minds and inspire a sense of wonder about the ground beneath our feet. 

Be sure to engage paraeducators in the fun and have them take a leadership role in creating these activities as their “peer coaching personal experiences.”  For more information to support you in working with peer coaches, have you considered some of our Peer Coaching Resources here at SDES?

So, dear functional academic champions, who’s ready to roll up their sleeves and engage in a truly enriching World Soil Day celebration?

Keep Grounded, Champions!  


You’ve got this. 

Barb Beck 🌱

Creative Content Director, Specially Designed Education Services (SDES)

World Soil Day Bonus Lessons – Growing & Selling Plants

Lesson Plans & Data Sheets

Sight Words Flash Cards

Randomized Sight Word Pages


Visual Support Checklists


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SDES has teamed up with Mundo Pato, Inc., our cloud publishing partner, to create a simple and affordable solution for special educators to use during this critical time.

The Virtual Teaching Materials are a separate supplemental purchase that will greatly enhance the Styer-Fitzgerald Program for Functional Academics ​or can be used on its own.

Virtual Teaching Materials Pricing 1st year: $1000 non-recurring configuration fee plus 12 x monthly charge.

Per Month
Per Year*


































Monthly subscription charge is based on a minimum of 100 students ​and increases by $125 per group of 25 additional students.

Scheduling Tip

Find a student in your classroom who can read and understand your master schedule. Assign them a job in the morning to help set up individual student schedules. See the video of Megan setting up the schedule.
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Suzanne’s student Megan was her Teacher’s Assistant first period during her junior and senior year. One of her jobs, among other clerical tasks, was to set up individual student schedules. It saved Suzanne prep time in the morning and was a great vocational experience for Megan.

SDES has teamed up with Mundo Pato, Inc., our cloud publishing partner, to create the full Styer-Fitzgerald Program for Functional Academics in the cloud. *The Styer-Fitzgerald Program in the Cloud Start-Up Fee: a $6000 non-recurring start-up fee will be added to the first year subscription only.

Cloud Pricing

Per Month
Per Year*
Monthly subscription charge is based on a minimum of 100 students ​and increases by $125 per group of 25 additional students.