What is Soil? - Lesson Plan

Instructor: John Hamilton

John has tutored algebra and SAT Prep and has a B.A. degree with a major in psychology and a minor in mathematics from Christopher Newport University.

Educate your students about soil with this lesson plan. They will view a video lesson about soil, take a related follow-up quiz to reinforce concepts, and also participate in an interesting hands-on activity to tie together newly learned concepts.

Learning Objectives

After studying this lesson your students will be able to:

  • Differentiate between the four different types of soil
  • Explain the composition of these four types of soil
  • Recap the concepts of soil aggregates, soil horizons, and soil profiles


1-1.5 Hours


  • Bag of clay
  • Bag of sand
  • Bag of silt
  • Beakers (4-5)
  • Copy of the text lesson What is Soil? - Definition, Structure & Types along with the related lesson quiz
  • Flashlights (4-5)
  • Glass jars filled with rocks in the bottom two inches (12-15)
  • Internet access
  • Pitcher of water
  • Tablespoons (4-5)

Curriculum Standards

  • MS-ESS2-2. Construct an explanation based on evidence for how geoscience processes have changed Earth's surface at varying time and spatial scales.
  • HS-ESS2-5. Plan and conduct an investigation of the properties of water and its effects on Earth materials and surface processes.

Key Vocabulary

  • Clay
  • Inorganic material
  • Loam
  • Organic material
  • Sand
  • Silt
  • Soil aggregates
  • Soil horizon
  • Soil profile
  • Weathering


  • Explain to your students they will be learning about soil and its composition.
  • Ask them if anyone is familiar with the topic.
  • Review the key vocabulary terms.
  • Read the introduction, start the video lesson What is Soil? - Definition, Structure & Types, and pause for the time at 1:26.
    • What is the definition of soil?
    • What two groups pay close attention to soil conditions and why?
    • How is soil so vital to an ecosystem?
    • What is the difference between inorganic and organic materials in soil?
    • How does the process of weathering take place?
  • Now, restart the video and pause this time at 2:33.
    • What is the best way to examine the soil beneath your feet?
    • What does a soil profile entail?
    • What is a soil horizon?
  • Next, restart the video and this time pause at 4:31.
    • What are the four major types of soil?
    • How can you differentiate between clay, loam, sand, and silt?
    • Which type of soil is a combination of the three other types?
  • Now, restart the video and pause for the final time at 6:17.
    • What are soil aggregates, and why are they important to know?
    • How are the four types of soil structures different from one another?
  • Next, restart the video and view the section 'Lesson Summary'.
  • Recap the completed lesson on soil.
  • Ask your students if they have any relevant questions about soil.
  • Have them take the lesson quiz.


  • Inform your students they will be participating in a fun hands-on activity about soil.
  • Divide up your students into four to five groups.
  • Pass out the proper materials.

Part A - Feeling the Textures of the Soil

  • First tell your students:
  1. Pick up a handful of sand and feel how it runs through your fingers. Have them try to form a ball (it won't be easy)
  2. Next, do the same thing with a handful of silt (it should form a ball somewhat)
  3. Now, do this one more time with a handful of clay (it should form a ball quite easily)

Part B - Inspecting the Soil

  • Next, have the students put two tablespoons of each type of soil on their desks.
  • Allow the students to use flashlights as well as their fingers or tablespoons to gently move the soil around and inspect the contents. Have them notice the difference between any organic or inorganic materials they find.

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