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There is a lot of life above the earth. But in most systems, there is more life BELOW the soil than above it. A handful of soil has more organisms in it then there are people in the world. Soil biology is all of the fungus, animals, and bacteria, and how it is processed in the soil. When these bacteria, fungi, and animals die, the living organisms in the soil eat the dead, creating organic matter. These reactions are dependent on the type of soil, and on the decisions that humans make.
Soil biology is very important, as healthy soils can store carbon in the soil, as opposed to releasing it into the atmosphere. Soils that are not regularly tilled and are covered by plant life are generally healthier, and have more types of bacteria and animals, and more organic matter. These soils erode less, and have more nutrients available for plant food.
This lesson plan is appropriate for grades 4+. Some of the details and organism names may be better suited for older students.
1) What types of organisms live in the soil?
2) What do soil organisms feed upon?
3) How do these organisms benefit humans?
Glossary of terms:
In current glossary:
Fungus (plural Fungi)
Other glossary words:
Bacteria -- Single-celled organisms that are microscopic ranging in shape from spheres, rods, to spirals.
Earthworms -- Long, thin segmented animals that burl through the soil aerating and enriching it.
Mites -- Eight-legged animals too small to see with the unaided eye that feed on smaller organisms and soil organic matter.
Nematodes -- Tiny, non-segmented worm-like organisms that mostly live on other organisms or soil organic matter.
Protozoa -- Single-celled organisms larger than bacteria that move in water films and feed on bacteria and soil organic matter.
Rotifers -- Microscopic animals found in many freshwater environments and in moist soil that move by swimming or crawling.
Springtails -- Six-legged animals that often have a tail-like structure folded beneath the body that can be used for jumping when the animal is threatened.
Activities or information:
1) Teaching with worms
Teaching with Worms -Discovery Kids (grades K-8) This site contains several activities and links to information involving worms.
On the Menu With Red Worms (grades K-8) This site contains the activity of building a worm bin for your classroom plus has information and a worm worksheet.
2) Soil biological communities
3) Composting for better soil
Composting for A Better Soil - New York AITC (grades 4-5) This is a teacher’s guide for composting with all sorts of activities, including worksheets, matching, building a compost bin, evaluating compost for plant growth, a glossary, and other items.
4) What’s living in my soil
Making a Berlease Funnel - Discovering Florida Scrub (Grades 5 and up) capture and observe soil organisms.
5) Microbial Diversity in the Soil
An Exercise to Demonstrate Soil Microbial Diversity in Introductory Environmental Science Classrooms (grades 6-12) This site explains two exercises to demonstrate soil diversity using different types of candy.
Quick, Easy Method to Show Living Soil Organisms to High School or Beginning-Level College Students (grades 6-12) This site explains a procedure to easily culture organisms from soil and then view them by using a microscope.
6) Soil biology movies
Soil Biology Movies - Iowa State University (grades 6-12) This site contains 18 movies depicting a variety of living organisms of the soil.
1) Which organism has the largest number of species in the soil?
2) Name five organisms that live in soil?
Rotifers, earthworms, mites, protozoa, springtails, nematodes, bacteria.
3) What is decomposition?
4) How do humans benefit from soil organisms?