Soil is crucial for sustaining life on Earth and combating climate change. Soils host over 25% of the world’s biodiversity, they nourish our crops, clean our water and store vast amounts of carbon. Yet 60% of soil in the EU is classed as degraded and unhealthy, according to the EU Soil Observatory (EUSO) dashboard, due to current management practices, pollution, urbanisation and the effects of climate change. 

Soils are a fragile and non-renewable resource. One centimetre of soil can take hundreds of years to form but can be lost in just a single rainstorm or industrial incident. Thus, soils need to be carefully managed and safeguarded for future generations. 

Soil health is the continued capacity of soil to function as a vital living system, within ecosystem and land-use boundaries, to sustain biological productivity, promote the quality of air and water environments, and maintain plant, animal, and human health. 

CURIOSOIL (Awakening Soil Curiosity to Catalyse Soil Literacy) is a four-year, EU co-funded project under the EU Soil Mission. Led by Universidade de Aveiro, the project focuses on enhancing soil education, addressing the critical need for a better understanding of soil amid increasing human pressures on this essential resource. Using hands-on Soil Experiences, CURIOSOIL aims to deepen public comprehension of soil dynamics, establishing a connection between individuals and soil. 

The EU Mission ‘A Soil Deal for Europe’ (Mission Soil) is among the five Missions financed under the EU Research and Innovation (R&I) Programme, Horizon Europe. The Soil Mission is dedicated to safeguarding and restoring soils, alongside advocating for sustainable management practices in both urban and rural settings. Its primary objective is to raise awareness and ensure the enduring health and productivity of soils across all land categories.  

Additionally, it seeks to advance and disseminate knowledge among stakeholders and the general public regarding sustainable practices in spatial planning, soil conservation, and agricultural methods, to reduce reliance on chemical inputs. By 2030, it aims to establish 100 Living Labs and Lighthouses to champion sustainable land and soil management in urban and rural contexts. 

The CURIOSOIL Project aims to play a pivotal role in changing how soil is valued, perceived, represented, taught, and communicated. Ultimately, CURIOSOIL seeks to ensure that soil health receives greater recognition in society. The project will leverage existing knowledge and strive to shift the perception of soil from a mere substrate to an ecosystem that warrants restoration and protection. Notably, CURIOSOIL will achieve the following advancements: 

  1. Introduce a novel approach to measuring soil curiosity, recognising it as a key factor in soil literacy communication and, ultimately, action. 

  2. Enhance the integration of soil literacy across all levels of education by collaborating with the education community to develop courses, guidelines, and training materials for formal and non-formal education throughout the EU. 

  3. Design multisensory soil experiences to ignite curiosity about soil and cultivate an intuitive understanding of soil health across various soil types, land uses, soil functions (including biodiversity), and human health. 

  4. Create compelling soil narratives that strike a balance between positive and negative aspects, focusing on practical, hands-on, and field-based solutions to instil optimism about soil. 

  5. Develop user-friendly, open-source digital tools to further engage users in soil-related initiatives.