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What Is Soil Made Of?

Author(s): Nancy Moreno, PhD, and Barbara Tharp, MS.


  • Create unique soil samples for each group by mixing varying amounts of soil and sand from different sites. Have students conduct the experiment again with these new samples, compare their results, and predict which samples might be the best to use in a vegetable garden. Have students test their predictions by putting the different kinds of soils in pots or cups and planting flower or vegetable seeds in each one.
  • Provide samples of pure sand and pure dry clay for students to examine with their magnifiers. Have them write about and/or draw the difference between the samples.
  • Try making your own pH paper to test soil acidity. Place about 1 cup of sliced purple cabbage into a sealable bag filled with warm distilled water. When the water is dark blue or purple, pour it into a container. Cut white coffee filters into strips that are 1 inch wide and 6 inches long. Dip the strips into the cabbage water and allow them to dry on a hard surface. Test the pH strips in vinegar (weak acid) and water with baking soda (weak base) to see how they change color. 
  • Measure 1/5 cup of soil into 2 cups of distilled water. Test the water using the pH strips. Compare several soils from different locations.

Funded by the following grant(s)

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, NIH

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, NIH

My Health My World: National Dissemination
Grant Number: 5R25ES009259
The Environment as a Context for Opportunities in Schools
Grant Number: 5R25ES010698, R25ES06932