Here is a bank of many lessons and hands-on activities all about soils and topics related to soils. These materials include lessons and activities are posted directly by SSSA as well as external links to materials that we have reviewed and recommend. You can search for materials by grade level and/or subject and/or type of lesson. Have a look and give it a try!

We have developed a Teacher's Guide for use in the classroom based on the Soil! Get the inside Scoop! book for kids.  Information includes objectives, glossary, test questions/worksheets, and Powerpoints - complete with teaching notes! Go to the Teachers Guide for Scoop!

While the following sites are not officially endorsed, the sites below were found to have high quality materials for lessons and activities at different grade levels.(More sites will be added as the review process continues.)

Soil Subject and Grade Level Matrix

Click on a link in this table to get a list of descriptions and direct links to resources for specific soil subjects and grade levels of interest.

Soil Subject

Grades K-4

Grades 5-8

Grades   9-12

General Soils

Soil composition, color, texture, formation, and landscapes

9 links

14 links

8 links

Soil Biology

Soil organisms, organic matter, decomposition, and composting.

5 links

9 links

8 links

Soils and Plant GrowthSoils and crops, soils and forestry, soil fertility

1 links

2 links

6 links

Soil Chemistry

Soil pH, nutrients,toxins in soil, chemical reactions in soil.

1 links

1 links

5 links

Soil Conservation

Soil erosion, soil quality, soil degradation, desertification

1 links

5 links

2 links

Soils and Land Development

Urban soils, waste disposal, soils and construction

 

2 links

3 links

Soil Forensics

Analyzing soils can help solve crimes. (*For students who have already studied about soils.)

 

3 links

3 links

 

Have you seen something cool we should add to our list? Is there a broken link?

Let us know!  

 

 

General Links of Interest

Soils and Careers - Do you have what it takes to be a soil science expert? This site is run by the Soil Science Society of America, and it gives examples of potential careers, skills, and people that are in many different areas of soil science.

Soil, Farming and Science - New Zealand Science Learning Hub Developed by educators and teachers in collaboration with New Zealand scientists to provide resources for teachers of school years 2-10. Even though the standards don't match up, the science is universal. The "Science Ideas and Concepts" page has several handouts about the major processes in soils, as well as quiz questions, interactive activities, and lesson plans. 

State Soils – USDA-NRCS (Natural Resource Conservation Service) - Check here to find which states have state soils, what those soils are, where they are located, and why these soils are important to each state.

Soil Education – USDA-NRCS (Natural Resource Conservation Service) The USDA-NRCS soils education home site for much information and activities about soil.

Dr. Dirt's K-12 Teaching Resources and Activities Soils information and activities at many grade levels for subjects including soil water, soil and agriculture, and soil and engineering. Also has a tasty edible soil recipe with educational value.

Dirt: Secrets in the Soil – Utah AITC (Agriculture in the Classroom) Many well done soil activities and explanations. Geared mostly toward elementary students, but some activities can be used for older students.

The Twelve Soil Orders – University of Idaho -Wonderful soil profile and soil landscape pictures, and geographic distribution of soils. (Organized by soil taxonomy, but pictures can be used without any discussion of taxonomy.)

Canon Envirothon - Information about the Canon Envirothon and starting a team.

The Apple Demo:

Apples

If the earth were an apple, how much of it would be productive soil?

The Apple as Planet Earth Video – American Farmland Trust Click on the presentation icon on the right for a one minute video.

Earth's Valuable Soil – Alaska AITC (Also on other AITC sites) Directions for doing the demo with an actual apple. Includes a student work sheet.

The Apple as Planet Earth - Dr. Dirt A Youtube video of the Apple Demonstration by Dr. Dirt.

 

General Soils

General Soils - Grades K-4

Soil composition activity and lesson. Discusses mineral and organic components of soil.

Ask the Answer Worm – USDA-NRCS K-12 Lessons S.K.Worm, the official worm of the Natural Resources Conservation Service, answers students' questions about soil. Basic information about soils with cartoon pictures.

Types by Texture – Utah AITC Dirt: Secrets in the Soil Soil texture (sand, silt, and clay) activities and lesson. Requires sand, silt, and clay samples and soil samples from home.

Soil Crayons – USDA-NRCS K-12 Lessons Instructions for how to make crayons from soil and wax. This activity provides and appreciation for the variety of soil colors. (Note: To get soils of different colors it is often necessary to dig below the topsoil in several locations.)

Painting with Soil – USDA-NRCS K-12 Lessons Instructions for how to make paints of wondrous colors using soil. (Note: To get soils of different colors it is often necessary to dig below the topsoil in several locations.)

The Soil Chain – Utah AITC Dirt: Secrets in the Soil Lesson about the importance of soil as a natural resource.

Down and Dirty – Discovery School The Dirt on Soil Soil definitions, terms, and concepts presented well for upper elementary and middle school students.

Perkin' Through the Pores – Utah AITC Dirt: Secrets in the Soil Lessons and activities about how different soils let water move through them and hold onto water differently. (PDF)

Soil is a Filter – Dr. Dirt's K-12 Teaching Resources and Activities Hands-on activity using soil and Kool-aid type drink to demonstrate how soils filter impurities from water. Teaches how soil is important for clean water.

Songs about Soil – USDA-NRCS K-12 Do you like to sing? Well, some soil scientists (young and old) do. Read the lyrics and sing them aloud.

General Soils - Grades 5-8

Soil Texture Lesson and Activity - Developed by SSSA, this lesson and activity introduces the concept of soil texture and particles sizes and contains an activity on Soil Texture (from New Mexico State University)

Soil Color Lesson and Activity - Developed by SSSA, this lesson and activity introduces the concept of soil colors and contains an activity on making Soil Crayons (from USDA).

Down and Dirty – DiscoverySchool - The Dirt on Soil Soil definitions, terms, and concepts presented well for upper elementary and middle school students.

Particle Size Using water, soda bottles, and soil, students can use "the bigger they are, the faster they fall" principle to find out whether sand, silt, or clay is made of larger particles.

mini soil monoliths

Make your own profile - Students create a model of a soil profile using card stock, carpet tape, and soil samples from different horizons.

 Paint with Soil Instructions for how to make paints of wondrous colors using soil. (Note: To get soils of different colors it is often necessary to dig below the topsoil in several locations.)

Soil Aggregates Activity uses glass jars, water, hardware cloth and soils to demonstrate how organic matter helps stabilize soils.

Soil Air – USDA-NRCS K-12 Lessons This simple demonstration allows students to see air in soil and compare the air content of soils from different sites in their area.

Soil Facts– USDA-NRCS K-12 Lessons Definitions of soil and soil survey, information on careers in Soil Science, and information on soil formation and classification.

Soil Quotations – USDA-NRCS K-12 Lessons The importance of soil to life and culture is illustrated by quotes from people like Leonardo DaVinci, Franklin Roosevelt, and the Indigo Girls.

Soil as a Sponge – Dr. Dirt's K-12 Teaching Resources and Activities A sponge in water is used to demonstrate many types of soil water interactions.

Perkin' Through the Pores – Utah AITC Dirt: Secrets in the Soil Lessons and activities about how different soils let water move through them and hold onto water differently. Designed for elementary students, but many parts appropriate for middle school.

Soil is a Filter – Dr. Dirt's K-12 Teaching Resources and Activities Hands-on activity using soil and Kool-aid type drink to demonstrate how soils filter impurities from water. Teaches how soil is important for clean water.

Careers in Soil Science – USDA-NRCS K-12 Lessons Information about soil scientists and career opportunities in soil science.

General Soil - Grades 9-12

Soil Texture Lesson and Activity - Developed by SSSA, this lesson and activity introduces the concept of soil texture and particles sizes and contains an activity on Soil Texture (from New Mexico State Univerity)

color chips  hand texturing soil

Soil Color Lesson and Activity - Developed by SSSA, this lesson and activity introduces the concept of soil colors and contains an activity on making Soil Crayons (from USDA).

Soil Texture (sand, silt, and clay) – USDA-NRCS K-12 Lessons A flow chart to identify soil texture (from the texture triangle) by feel, using a soil sample and water.

Soil Color – USDA-NRCS K-12 Lessons Information about how soil color is related to types of minerals, amount of organic matter, and hydrology.

Soil Facts – USDA-NRCS K-12 Lessons Definitions of soil and soil survey, information on careers in Soil Science, and information on soil formation and classification.

Soil Quotations – USDA-NRCS K-12 Lessons The importance of soil to life and culture is illustrated by quotes from people like Leonardo DaVinci, Franklin Roosevelt, and the Indigo Girls.

The 12 Soil Orders – USDA-NRCS Photos and information about the twelve soil orders and a high resolution poster with great soil pictures available to download.

Careers in Soil Science – USDA-NRCS K-12 Lessons Information about soil scientists and career opportunities in soil science.

Soil Biology

(Soil organisms such as bacteria, worms, fungi and many more. Soil organic matter and decomposition, composting. How soils affect organisms and organisms affect soil)

Soil Biology - Grades K-4

Just for Kids: Soil Biological Communities – BLM-NSTC THE soil biology resource site for elementary teachers. Many many resources, lessons, and hands-on activities about soils and organisms. (Too many to list here...go look.)

Soil Safari – Discovery School The Dirt on Soil A fun, interactive, microscopic computer safari through the soil. (Can be downloaded onto a desktop.) Also click on "Field Guide" for pictures and more information on organisms encountered in virtual and real soil. (Upper elementary and middle school.)

Underground Adventure – The (Chicago) Field Museum A virtual tour of the Chicago Field Museum soil exhibit. Also on-line information and activities about soils and soil organisms.

Secrets to Healthy Soils – Utah AITC Dirt: Secrets in the Soil Students examine soil organisms extracted from different fresh soil samples. Samples are extracted overnight by heat lamp and screen. All directions for set-up and types of organisms included.

The Rotten Truth – Utah AITC Dirt: Secrets in the Soil Activity in which students demonstrate and learn about decomposition with and without soil. Also has lesson on methods of composting.

Soil Biology - Grades 5-8

Soil Safari – Discovery School: The Dirt on Soil A fun, interactive, microscopic computer safari through the soil. (Can be downloaded onto a desktop.) Also click on "Field Guide" for pictures and more information on organisms encountered in virtual and real soil. (Upper elementary and middle school.)

Audio Soil Safari – BBC Biologist Mike Dilger leads the listener on a tour through the world of soil organisms.

Microbe Zoo: Dirtland – DLC-ME Michigan State University Information about microorganisms that live in different soil environments, including cropland, low oxygen, high temperatures, and toxic dumps.

Soil Biology Movies Narrated video clips (1-3 minutes) of real soil organisms seen through a microscope and just out of the ground. By Tom Loynachan.

Earthworm Farm – BLM-NSTC Just for Kids: Soil Biological Communities Instructions for how to make an earthworm farm.

Secrets to Healthy Soils – Utah AITC Dirt: Secrets in the Soil Students examine soil organisms extracted from different fresh soil samples and learn why they are important. Organisms are extracted from soil samples overnight by heat lamp and screen. Includes directions for set-up and simple descriptions of types of organisms.

catching soil bugs

Collect Soil Bugs – BLM-NSTC Just for Kids: Soil Biological Communities Instructions for how to make a pitfall trap for larger soil organisms and a funnel trap for smaller soil organisms.

Introduction to the World of Nematodes – APS K-12 Teachers' Guide For grades 7-12 in classrooms where dissecting and compound microscopes are available. It requires materials (funnels, screen, tubing, clamps, 2-ply tissues, ring stand, soil sample, and water) and preparation.

Soil Food Web – NRCS Soil Biology Soil Biology Primer Diagram of a soil food web.

Soil Biology - Grades 9-12

Soil Biology Primer – NRCS Soil Biology A well done on-line text book on soil organisms and soil quality. For high school students and teachers. Also has some good pictures and clip art to use.

Soil Food Web – NRCS Soil Biology Soil Biology Primer Diagram of a soil food web.

Microbe Zoo: Dirtland – DLC-ME Michigan State University Information about microorganisms that live in different soil environments, including cropland, low oxygen, high temperatures, and toxic dumps.

Soil Biology Movies, Narrated video clips (1-3 minutes) of real soil organisms seen through a microscope and just out of the ground. By Tom Loynachan.

Audio Soil Safari – BBC Biologist Mike Dilger leads the listener on a tour through the world of soil organisms.

Soils Are Alive – The University of Western Australia Soil Health Comprehensive information of soil organisms, biological processes and ecosystem management. For teachers and upper level students.

Introduction to the World of Nematodes – APS K-12 Teachers' Guide For grades 7-12 in classrooms where dissecting and compound microscopes are available. It requires materials (funnels, screen, tubing, clamps, 2-ply tissues, ring stand, soil sample, and water) and preparation.

Carbon Sequestration in Soils – ESA Fact sheet about how soils retain carbon and reduce CO2 in the air.

Soils and Plant Growth

(Soils and crops, soils and forestry, soil fertility)

 

Soils and Plant Growth - Grades K-4

 

Soil Sam – Illinois AITC Students make a "Soil Sam" with a baby food jar to hold the soil and grass seeds planted to grow "hair". Includes suggested additions to learn about fertilizers.

Soils and Plant Growth - Grades 5-8

Soils & Hydroponics – Science Fair Projects & Experiments Includes sample science fair projects and resources for science fair projects about the relationship between soils and plant growth. Projects are grouped by grade 4-6, 7-9, 10-12.

Soil in the Amazon – PBS Students compare plant growth in soil like that of the Amazon to soil found in temperate climates. For grades 7-12.

Soils and Plant Growth - Grades 9-12

Soils & Hydroponics – Science Fair Projects & Experiments Includes sample science fair projects and resources for science fair projects about the relationship between soils and plant growth. Projects are grouped by grade 4-6, 7-9, 10-12.

The Chemistry of Fertilizers – California Foundation AITC Hands-on experiments, activities, practice problems, discussions and writing assignments are incorporated as students learn to break compounds into ions, make a fertilizer and test several fertilizers for phosphate content.

Chemistry in Plant Nutrition and Growth – Alaska AITC Lesson plan with information, tables, diagrams, and questions about plant nutrients in soil.

Chemistry in Soil-Plant Relationships – Alaska AITC Lesson plan with information and questions about movement of water and nutrients in soil, roots in soil, and fertilizer applications.

Chemistry and the Nitrogen Cycle – Alaska AITC Lesson plan with information and questions about forms, transformations, and movement of nitrogen in soil.

Soil in the Amazon – PBS Students compare plant growth in soil like that of the Amazon to soil found in temperate climates. For grades 7-12.

 

 

Soil Chemistry

 

 

 

(Soil pH, ability to hold onto nutrients, fate of toxins in soil, important chemical reactions that take place in soil.)

Soil Chemistry - Grades K-4

soil as a filter

Soil is a Filter – Dr. Dirt's K-12 Teaching Resources and Activities Hands-on activity using soil and Kool-aid type drink to demonstrate how soils filter impurities from water. Teaches how soil is important for clean water.

Soil Chemistry - Grades 5-8

Soil is a Filter – Dr. Dirt's K-12 Teaching Resources and Activities Hands-on activity using soil and Kool-aid type drink to demonstrate how soils filter impurities from water. Teaches how soil is important for clean water.

Soil Chemistry - Grades 9-12

Soil pH: What it Means – SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry Succinct overview of the range of soil pH and how it affects nutrients, minerals, and plant growth.

Chemistry in Plant Nutrition and Growth – Alaska AITC Lesson plan with information, tables, diagrams, and questions about plant nutrients in soil.

Chemistry in Soil-Plant Relationships – Alaska AITC Lesson plan with information and questions about movement of water and nutrients in soil, roots in soil, and fertilizer applications.

Chemistry and the Nitrogen Cycle – Alaska AITC Lesson plan with information and questions about forms, transformations, and movement of nitrogen in soil.

The Chemistry of Fertilizers – California Foundation AITC Hands-on experiments, activities, practice problems, discussions and writing assignments are incorporated as students learn to break compounds into ions, make a fertilizer and test several fertilizers for phosphate content.

 

Soil Conservation

(Soil erosion, soil quality, soil degradation, desertification)

 

Soil Conservation - K-4

Keeping the Soil in Its Place – Utah AITC Dirt: Secrets in the Soil Lessons, exercises, and hands-on activities about causes of erosion and ways to reduce erosion.

Soil Conservation - 5-8

Soil Erosion – USDA-NRCS K-12 Lessons Activity using soda bottles, soil, and water, to demonstrate the process of erosion.

Erosion – Dr. Dirt's K-12 Teaching Resources and Activities Photos and descriptions of some of the problems of erosion. Look near the bottom for pictures of erosion in urban settings.

Keeping the Soil in Its Place – Utah AITC Dirt: Secrets in the Soil Lessons, exercises, and hands-on activities about causes of erosion and ways to reduce erosion. Designed for elementary students, but parts are appropriate for middle school, particularly the raindrop splash experiment demonstrating how raindrops cause erosion.

Aggregate Stability – USDA-NRCS K-12 Lessons Activity uses glass jars, water, hardware cloth and soils to demonstrate how organic matter helps stabilize soils.

Desertification – UNESCO Teacher's guide that explains the process of desertification through text, case studies, class activities, cartoons, and a poster.

Soil Conservation - 9-12

Erosion – Dr. Dirt's K-12 Teaching Resources and Activities Photos and descriptions of some of the problems of erosion. Look near the bottom for pictures of erosion in urban settings.

 

Desertification – UNESCO Teacher's guide that explains the process of desertification through text, case studies, class activities, cartoons, and a poster.

Soils and Land Development

(Urban soils, waste disposal, soils and construction)

Soils and Land Development - 5-8

Hold it Up – NOVA Students study how the soil beneath a building influences the buildings stability. This activity is associated with the NOVA program "Fall of the Leaning Tower" about the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Erosion – Dr. Dirt's K-12 Teaching Resources and Activities Photos and descriptions of some of the problems of erosion. Look near the bottom for pictures of erosion in urban settings.

Soils and Land Development - 9-12

Urban Soils – USDA-NRCS This 77-page document gives information about urban soils for homeowners and renters, local planning boards, property managers, students, and educators.

Understanding Soil Risks and Hazards – USDA-NRCS This 96-page publication introduces several soil related risks and hazards that are important to city and county planners, developers, construction contractors, and others who use or build facilities on or in soils.

Erosion – Dr. Dirt's K-12 Teaching Resources and Activities Photos and descriptions of some of the problems of erosion. Look near the bottom for pictures of erosion in urban settings.

Soil Forensics

(How analyzing soils can help solve crimes. * For students who have already studied about soils.)

 

Soil Forensics - 5-8

Who did it? – Teachers First In this activity students use the unique properties of soil to solve a crime.

How Soil Evidence Helped Solve a Double Murder Case - CAFSS Case study describing how forensic soil scientists from the Centre for Australian Forensic Soil Science helped solve a murder case. Includes pictures (nothing gory) and explanations of soil evidence. (Also available as a podcast from the CAFSS home site (link).

 

Collecting Crime Evidence From Earth – Geotimes Stories about cases in which soil evidence was used to solve crimes.

 

Soil Forensics - 9-12

Who did it? – Teachers First In this activity students use the unique properties of soil to solve a crime. (Designed for grades 6-8, but adaptable to higher grades.)

How Soil Evidence Helped Solve a Double Murder Case - CAFSS Case study describing how forensic soil scientists from the Centre for Australian Forensic Soil Science helped solve a murder case. Includes pictures (nothing gory) and explanations of soil evidence. (Also available as a podcast from the CAFSS home site (link), 

Collecting Crime Evidence From Earth – Geotimes Stories about cases in which soil evidence was used to solve crimes.