Give me a P! Explore Phosphate Mining

April 08, 2013 | 8:04 am

ElementsWhat do fire extinguishers, toothpaste and feeding the world have in common? Phosphate!

Phosphate is the “P” in N-P-K; one of three macronutrients that plants need to thrive. From experience, I know that standing in front of the periodic table and teaching the macro and micronutrients to a classroom of students was a little less than exciting for my pupils. Would pictures of ancient sea life, large machinery, and a joystick make my students perk up and listen? I think so!

Lisa Nagel, ESE resource teacher from Essring Elementary, attended a Nutrients for Life Foundation workshop and had this to say about our new phosphate video:

“I LOVE the phosphate video! I think my fifth graders will love it too…I can imagine half of them wanting to operate that awesome machine with “feet” or the high-powered hoses when they grow up, which is better than the current ‘I want to be a professional wrestler’ comments. We will definitely fit this into the curriculum; it was very informative.”

Complete with sweeping shots of reclamation land, up-close footage of a dragline in action and colorful animation of ancient sea life, the Foundation’s new Phosphate Mining video shows students the amazing process of mining phosphate in the Southeastern U.S. and its importance for global food security.

In the video, the gigantic dragline in a Southeastern U.S. phosphate mine steals the scene. It can carve over 75,000 tons of rock per day, and the workers behind the joystick controller hydro-blast the rock, like in a high-tech video game. Then, students see amazing reclamation lands, which is land carefully restored and reclaimed back into beautiful and high-quality ecosystems. Finally, students view the larger scope of phosphate’s essential role in feeding the world.

Consider spicing up a science lesson by adding the phosphate video. It could be used to introduce a unit on soil science, add context to an adenosine triphosphate (ATP) production lesson, or provide enrichment information about fertilizer to students. It may even inspire your students to think about a career other than professional wrestling.