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

Looking at Soil

Complete instructions for conducting activities in this slide set, including materials needed, setup instructions, student sheets (in English and in Spanish), answer keys and extensions, can be found in The Science of Food Teacher’s Guide, which is available free-of-charge at

Session 1

1. Direct students to cover their work areas with newspapers. Have the Materials Manager from each group measure about 2 cups of soil onto a paper plate and bring the soil back to their group.

2. Have students place about 1/2 of their group’s soil in the center of their work area. Have them take turns describing the soil, using all of their senses, except taste. Ask, What does the soil look like? How does it smell? How does it feel?

3. Ask each student to write three words that describe some aspect of the soil sample on his or her student sheet.

4. Next, direct students to spread out the sample (using toothpicks, popsicle sticks, etc.) and to observe the different components of the soil sample. Ask, What are some of the things that you can see in the soil? Possibilities include twigs, pieces of leaves, plant roots, insects, worms, small rocks and particles of sand. Ask, What are some things in soil that we can’t see? Answers may include air, water and microorganisms.

5. Have students list or draw the different things they find in their soil samples. Suggest that they think about and classify the different components of soil as coming from living or non-living sources.

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

Houston Endowment Inc.

Foundations for the Future: Capitalizing on Technology to Promote Equity, Access and Quality in Elementary Science Education