In this set of activities adaptable for grades K-3, parents and educators will find ideas for teaching about soil and dirt. These activities are designed to complement the BrainPOP Jr. Soil topic page, which includes a movie, quizzes, online games, printable activities, and more.
Classroom Activities for Teaching About Soil
In the Soil
Bring in different kinds of soil for your students to analyze. If possible, have students use hand lenses and microscopes to see what is in each kind of soil. You can collect soils from a garden, beach, park, or nursery. Have your students record what they see. Which soil has the most rocks? Which soil has the most bits of dead plants and animals? Which soil is darkest, and which keeps its shape longest when you stick your thumb in it?
To extend the activity, have students predict which soil holds the most water. Then have students pour a small amount of water in each soil sample and place it in a warm place. After an hour, have students check to see which soil stayed damp the longest.
What Grows Best?
Bring in different kinds of soil for your students. If possible get topsoil, clay soil, and sandy soil (or even sand). You can get these soils from a nursery or gardening store. Have students plant seeds in each kind of soil and observe how they grow. Which soil is best for plants? Which soil is worst? If possible, try experimenting with different seeds such as grasses, flowers, and vegetables. Different plants grow best in different kinds of soil.
Some animals, like insects and worms, live in the soil. Worms are helpful to the soil because they mix all the parts of the soil. The worm tunnels allow air and water to reach the soil as well. They also ingest soil as they eat whatever plants, fruit, or compost you feed them. After they eat, they leave behind casings which add nutrients to the soil that plants need to grow. Start a worm farm with your students. Use an aquarium, terrarium, or other clear container. Add soil and worms and have students observe. You can purchase worms from gardening stores and nurseries. Don’t forget to water the soil and keep it damp. Composting fruit and vegetable scraps will extend the lesson even further. Plant seeds in the soil of your worm farm and observe how they grow.
Different soils vary in color and texture. Invite students to bring in a small amount of soil from their yards or from places around their communities. Make sure they label where they got the soil. Divide the students into small groups and have them compare and contrast the soil. Why might one soil be darker than the other? What might make one soil reddish in color? Where in the community might you find drier soil or sand? Have students discuss and write down their ideas.
Then have students create soil paintings. They can use glue and their soil samples to create landscapes, abstract paintings, or even portraits. Encourage them to be creative! Then have students share their artwork with the whole class.
Family and Homeschool Activities for Teaching About Soil
Start a compost with your child. Explain that composting is a way to recycle certain foods and turn them into humus. This humus can be used to grow plants. Research composting online, and ask for advice from a gardener or a gardening shop. Inexpensive composting kits can also be obtained from a gardening store, or you can create a compost of your own using a large, sealable container. Be sure to discuss what can go in the compost—fruit cores and rinds, vegetable scraps, leaves, live worms and insects, and dead plants are just a few items. Meat, bones, or anything with grease or chemicals should not be thrown into the compost. After you create enough humus, you can add it to soil and then plant seeds.
How Our Garden Grows
One of the best ways to learn about soil’s importance is to start a garden. If possible, plant a few seeds in a window box or in the yard. Many neighborhoods also have community gardens where you can plant seeds and grow your own vegetables or flowers. Together with your child, research natural ways to keep soil healthy for plants. For example, you can research natural fertilizers, and also add worms to your soil. Worms aerate and mix the soil and their casings provide many nutrients for plants to grow. You can also add damp mulch, leaves and grass clippings, or even small bits of shredded newspaper.
Take a trip with your child to different places such as a park, beach, garden, forest, or desert. Have your child observe the soil in each place. If possible have your child bring along a hand lens so that he or she can observe the soil more closely. Have your child compare and contrast the soils found in the different places. Which place had the driest soil? Which place had the wettest? Have your child write his or her observations in a journal and draw pictures of what the soils look like. The journal can be maintained over time, and your child can compare soil at different times of the year, and in different places they visit.