Soil is all around us. We wipe off of our shoes before we enter the house and wash it from our hands before eating, but there’s more to it than that. Help kindergarten children understand the importance of soil with this two-day lesson plan.
Settling Soil – Experiment One
Children will learn what soil is composed of in this experiement:
Jars with lids, one for every group of three or four children
Soil dug out of the ground (not bagged potting soil)
Pitcher of water
Pencils, crayons, markers
Before the lesson fill each jar about halfway with soil.
Divide the children into small groups of three of four. Give each group a jar with soil in it. Go around to each group and add water to the jars until it is almost to the top. Put the lids on the jars and tighten them. When all of the jars have water in them, tell the children to take turns shaking up their jars. Then put the jars back on the table and let the soil settle. The longer the soil sits the better. Plan to shake the jars at the end of the day and let them sit overnight.
The next day, when the soil has settled, tell the children to look at what has happened. Ask them what they notice about the soil. It will have settled into layers. They may notice small rocks and gravel on the top of the soil and finer silt and clay near the bottom. Any extra debris, like leaves and small twigs, will float to the top of the water. Talk about why the soil has settled this way. Give the children paper to draw what they see and label any items they can in their soil.
Collect the jars and pour out as much of the water as you can. Save them for the next day’s lesson.
Composition of Soil – Experiment Two
Children will take a closer look at the different things that make up soil while working with science tools like hand lenses. They will also practice the skills of observing and recording data in this continuation of the previous experiment.
Jars filled with soil from the previous day
White bulletin board paper to cover the tables with
Hand lenses, one per child
Paper or science notebooks
Pencils, crayons, markers
Cover the work surfaces with large sheets of white paper. This will make up easier and give the children a clear surface to work on.
Give each of the groups a jar of soil, a few plastic spoons and hand lenses. Show them how to carefully pour out their soil onto the white paper. Then have them use the spoon to separate the things they find in the soil and the hand lenses to take a closer look at the sediments in the soil. Once again talk about what they notice.
What kinds of things can they see in their soil?
Are there different types or colors of soil?
When they use the hand lenses, can they see different-sized particles?
Did they find sand, rocks, gravel, or clay?
As an assessment have the children draw or write in their science notebooks or on plain paper what they learned about the composition of soil. Some may be able identify a few things that make up soil, while others will be able to explain how the soil settled and why.
The Uses of Soil – Experiment Three
In this lesson plan, students will discover the uses of soil and why it is important.
Chart paper and markers
Samples of different types of soil, including sand, potting soil and clay
Pictures of soil being used in different ways
Begin by asking the children to think of all the different places that they can find soil. Then show them the different types of soil and pictures you have collected. Ask them what where they have seen the different types of soil and how they might be used.
Some soils are used for growing plants, helping to anchor them in the ground and providing nutrients necessary for growth. Others like sand provide recreation. We play in it and build sand castles with it. Heavier, more compact soils are used as foundations for roads and gravelly soils are used in tracks and roads. As they look at the pictures and discuss them, the students will begin to understand how important soil is in our lives.
Ask the children to write and draw about the importance of soil and how we use it.
Launch a unit about earth science with these activities on soil science. Kindergarten lesson plans about rocks and minerals are good follow-ups.
Tomecek, Steve. Dirt. National Geographic, 2002
Photo provided by author