Properties of Soil Activities

Instructor: Josh Corbat

Josh has taught Earth Science and Physical Science at the High School level and holds a Master of Education degree from UNC-Chapel Hill.

Are your students learning about the properties of soil? This lesson contains several activities that students can engage with both indoors and outdoors. Each activity is flexible enough to be taught at several different developmental levels.

Get Your Hands Dirty!

One of the great parts of learning about soil is that you can get your hands dirty. Remind students that learning is not always a clean activity, and that they will have to get a bit messy in these activities. In many ways, this is a great opportunity to make learning more meaningful for them. Students and teachers may even have some nostalgia; playing with dirt brings back great memories of childhood and summertime!

Outdoor Activities

Any time you're working with soil it's a good idea to try to get outside at least once. This can help students understand the importance of soil to our lives. Indeed, it's all around us! The activities below are exploratory in nature and can be completed with minimal equipment.

Soil Digging

With the permission of your school administration, take your students outside with some shovels (or even large spoons will work) and select a few areas to dig into. As students dig, ask them to carefully separate the soil they are removing into different piles based on the way it looks or feels. As they dig downward, ask onlookers to describe the layers of soil they are uncovering. Then ask students to take handfuls of soil from each pile (one at a time) and describe the texture. Next, ask students to guess what the soil may be good for. Some examples include: good for construction because it is firm or good for water flow because it is loose and allows a lot of water through it. This activity is inquiry-heavy and can lead to other projects based on student interest. In an urban school setting this type of activity could possibly be executed at a public park. This would likely require special permissions.

Soil Expedition

Take students outdoors on a tour around your school. You will need to scout out a few good locations for this activity. This might include: a stream, a clearing, an area with heavy foot traffic, and an area with buildings on it. In each location, ask students to describe the soil they are standing on. Then ask them how the properties they are describing might be well suited for the area and what it is used for. Once students have determined some of the characteristics of the soil, ask them to take some notes and perhaps a few pictures. Explain that their task is to create a poster on soil types and uses back in the classroom. These posters will serve the purpose of reminding students throughout the unit the importance of soil in the real world. Allow time for students to research soil types further as they create the poster.

Indoor Activities

Although going outside is always an engaging time for students, there are several activities that can be done indoors. These activities can be meaningful for students as they are able to examine the properties of soil up close. Be sure to have enough supplies on hand, as students may need to perform some trials more than once.

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