Lesson 1: Soil


Activity 1: Components of Soil

Materials: Dirt by Steve Tomecek, 4 zip top bags, blindfold, clay soil (kit), colored pencils or markers*, gravel (kit), sand (kit), silt or flour
Ask your child to reread p. 8 in the book Dirt. Put a blindfold on your child and place about 1/2 cup of each soil component (clay, silt, sand, and gravel) in its own zip top bag. Let your child feel each component of soil and identify each by its texture. Place a label on each bag according to your child's guesses. Then take the blindfold off and let him analyze each bag. Ask him if he wants to change any of the labels after looking at the components. Once you've finished, be sure to save the soil components for use in future activities.

NOTE: Silt can be found at almost any river, stream, or lake. If you cannot find silt in your area, substitute flour and explain that silt particles feel similar to flour.

Select one of the following options.

Option 1

Give your child the "Components of Soil" (Option 1) sheet. On this page, he will identify and color each component of soil. Then he will match the description at the bottom of the page with the components. Let him feel the difference between sugar and flour.

Answer Key:

  • Large, rough pieces that feel like rocks. (gravel)
  • Feels like hard clumps of dirt and is sticky when wet. (clay)
  • Fine grains that feel like sugar in your hand. (sand)
  • Very fine grains that feel like flour in your hand. (silt)
Student Activity Page

Option 2 (Advanced)

Give your child the "Components of Soil" (Option 2) sheet. On this page, he will identify and color each component of soil. Then he will write his own sentence that describes the texture of each component.

(Answers for Option 2 will vary — see sample answers for Activity 1.)
Student Activity Page

Activity 2: Experimenting with Soil

Materials: clay soil (kit), grass seed (kit), gravel (kit), plastic cups (kit), potting soil (kit), sand (kit)
For this activity, your child will try to grow seeds in different types of soil. Let your child mix varying amounts of the components of soil along with some planting soil or organic matter in small containers where seeds can be planted. For example, he may mix 1/8 cup of clay soil with a 1/4 cup of potting soil, or a 1/4 cup of sand with a 1/4 cup of potting soil, or a 1/4 cup of sand, 1/4 cup of clay soil, and a 1/4 cup of potting soil. He can record the mixture of each of the three containers on the "Experimenting with Soil" sheet. Then, he can record the question he is hoping to answer for the experiment: "In which mixture of soil do seeds grow best?"

Ask him what plants need to grow. He should think about the best place to set the plants and how often to water them. He can record his hypothesis on the experiment page and guess which soil will be the best for growing plants. After two or three weeks, he can determine in which type of soil the seeds are growing the strongest and largest. He can use a ruler to measure the heights of the plants in each cup.
Student Activity Page