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Paul D. Coverdell World Wise Schools

Paul D. Coverdell World Wise Schools

Fighting Soil Erosion

Africa, Guinea
Grades 3-5, Grades 6-8
Environment, Health, Social Studies & Geography

This lesson is divided into two parts. The first section is intended for classes that are being introduced to the topic of soil erosion. This section consists of a variety of activities developed by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the National Geographic Society. These activities will help develop a foundational understanding of soil erosion. The second section allows the students to explore the issue of soil erosion in Guinea through a narrated slide show. Steve Jacobson, a former Peace Corps Volunteer, shares his experience and the different strategies Guineans are using to address soil erosion.


Soil erosion

More About Guinea



After completing this lesson, students should be able to

  • Explain the process of soil erosion.
  • Describe the impact soil erosion has on the land and local human populations.
  • Identify means of reducing erosion.


  • Rill: a small stream; rivulet
  • Soil erosion: the wearing away of soil by water, wind, or both
  • Terrace: a flat surface
  • A-frame: a structure made with two standing supports or sides that meet at the top
  • Le Serpent: literally, “snake,” in French. When used in the context of this story, it refers to the snakelike hose used as a leveling tool
  • Arduous: difficult; requiring hard work 


  •  Le serpent
  • A-frame
  • Check dam
  • Terraces
  • Modified terrace

See links above for visual references.


 "Fighting Soil Erosion," by Steve Jacobson

This narrated slide show by returned Peace Corps Volunteer Steve Jacobson explores the causes and effects of soil erosion in the country of Guinea . Steve also discusses various solutions to address the effects of soil erosion.

1. Begin the lesson by asking the students questions about soil erosion, such as:

  • Where can you find examples of soil erosion?
  • What do you think causes soil erosion?
  • How might soil erosion impact people?
  • How might soil erosion impact animals and plants that live in water?
  • Should people be concerned if there's soil erosion in their community?
  • What means could you use to reduce soil erosion?

2. Using a world map, locate Africa and then Guinea , or ask a student to do so. Ask the students what they know about Africa and, more specifically, Guinea . Proceed by providing some information about the culture and geography of the country. (See Resources, above.)

If the students do not know what the Peace Corps is, give them some background information ( http://www.peacecorps.gov/ ). Then identify Steven Jacobson as a former Peace Corps Volunteer, and explain his role in supporting some Guineans in reducing erosion.

3. View the slide show in class. (Distribute copies of the text for students who may profit from following along.) Then lead a discussion about the erosion issues that Steve Jacobson addresses. The following questions may serve to guide the discussion.


a. What, besides water, can cause soil erosion? [Wind.]

b. What human activities contribute to soil erosion? [Cutting of trees; slashing of other vegetation; overgrazing of livestock [the animals eat the grass that helps hold soil together, and their hooves loosen soil, making it easier for water and wind to erode it]; planting on unterraced and uncontoured slopes.]

c. What are some of the effects of soil erosion?

  • Loss of topsoil in which crops are grown
  • Creation of rills, or channels, which are difficult or impossible to cultivate
  • Turbid, or muddy, streams and rivers (which reduces the ability of fish to obtain oxygen)
  • Sedimentation (which causes streams to become shallower-and, thus, warmer, which may cause coldwater fish, such as trout, to disappear

d. What actions can people take to reduce soil erosion? [Contour farming; terracing; check dams; planting of grasses and other plants on slopes]


Frameworks & Standards

 Enduring Understandings
  • Soil erosion is a result of both natural and human-induced processes and affects both the physical environment and human livelihoods.
  • Careful management of an area can reduce soil erosion and help a community maintain its livelihood.
Essential Questions
  • What causes soil erosion?
  • How does soil erosion affect people?
  • What can people do to reduce or control soil erosion?


  • Science: Content Standard F: Science in Personal and Social Perspectives
  • Social Studies: Theme I: Culture and Cultural Diversity
  • Social Studies: Theme III: People, Places, and Environments
  • Social Studies: Theme IX: Global Connections 


 a. Visit the link that follows, or contact a local nonprofit organization to help identify soil erosion in your community and to learn how you and your students can help reduce its effect on the environment. http://www.cbf.org/site/PageServer?pagename=action_simple_ways_soil

b. Have the students, working in small groups, research the causes and effects of soil erosion in different regions of the world. The groups should identify what local people are doing to mitigate the effects of soil erosion in their locales.

c. Visit iEARN (International Education and Resource Network) to learn about the many projects that teachers and students from around the world are collaborating on: www.iearn.org

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