Engage: What is soil?

Are dirt and soil the same thing?
What is soil? Where  can you find soil?
Click on the picture to identify what is in soil.


Explore: Soil, Activity 1

Explore Soil Size and Texture
Soil is made up of several components, or parts. Different amounts of those parts can make the soil look and feel different. Click the picture and watch the video to see how you will explore the components of soil today.

Video screen shot

Get ready to dig in!

Record your observations in your science notebook.

Hands-On Activity

Answer these questions after you explore soil.

Are all the soil samples the same color?
Do the soil samples have the same components/things in them?
Did the soil stick together?
Could you roll the soil into a ball?


Explore: Soil, Activity 2

Explore Soil Color
Soil can be many colors.
Click the picture to observe and compare different soil colors.

three pots of soil

Did you see any soil colors that matched the soil samples you explored during Activity 1?

Explain: Soil

What did you find in the soil? How did it feel?
Let’s spray the soil sample with a small amount of water.
How does it feel?

If it feels rough or gritty, the soil is likely sandy soil.  

If it feels like powder, it is likely silt.



If it feels smooth, the soil is likely clay. 


Did you know that the best soil for planting has a combination of sand, silt, and clay? That mixture is called loam.

soil profile

Soil is made up of tiny pieces of rocks and minerals, pieces of dead plants and animals, air, and water.

Did you find these things in your soil sample?


Elaborate: Soil Shake

What do you think will happen if you put your soil samples in a container with water and shake them up?
Let’s find out! See Teacher Notes for instructions.

Hands-On Activity





Test your soil knowledge.

To retake the quiz, reload the page and then select "No" when the "Resume Quiz" dialog box appears.

Teacher Notes

This resource is a collection of interactive activities, videos, and other digital media assembled in a conceptually scaffolded 5E lesson format. It provides alternative or additional Tier I learning options for students to observe, compare, describe, and sort components of soil by size, texture, and color—Grade 1 TEKS (7)(A). The assignments require student participation with self-checked and teacher-checked formative assessment opportunities. For example, after students record observations and data in their notebooks, they may be prompted to be prepared to share their answers with the class.

Review the resource before assigning it to or working through it with your students to check for prerequisite knowledge, differentiation needs, and student follow-up requirements, as necessary.

Students can record their responses in a science notebook, or you may record student responses on chart paper or in a class science notebook. Students may have varied knowledge of soil at this time.

Dirt is what you sweep off your floor or scrape off your shoes.
Soil is what we use for planting. It is full of nutrients from decaying plants and animals.
Soil is a mixture of minerals from weathered rocks, decayed plants and animals, air, and water. Soil is natural resource. Most living things depend on soil.

At this time, students should define soil in their own words.
Students will click on the photo of soil to open the interactive activity. Once opened, students should select one of the mud pies to place the components of soil in the pie. The answer is correct when the pie section fills in. If it remains blank, try again.

Students should leave this interactive activity with an understanding that soil is made up of minerals/tiny pieces of rocks, organic material/pieces of dead plants and animals, air, and water. They do not need to know the amount of each component in different types of soil.

EXPLORE Soil, Activity 1:
Explore Soil Size and Texture
Students will watch the video and see that they will explore and observe soil samples today.
Use this hands-on activity to lead students in making observations of the size and texture of the components of soil.

small shovel
3 resealable quart-size plastic bags or containers for soil
3 plastic spoons
white paper
hand lenses

Fill the containers with soil from three different areas around your school. You may choose to do this as a class or prior to the lesson.

Set up one station for each soil sample. Each station should include the soil sample, a spoon, hand lenses, and white paper.

Instruct students to use the spoon to place some soil on the white paper. Instruct students to touch the soil and to sort the different components (organic and inorganic matter). Instruct students to use a hand lens to observe the components of the soil. Instruct students to record their observations either in their science notebooks or on plain paper.
Allow time for students to explore the soil at each station.

Are all of the soil samples the same color?
Do the soil samples have the same components?
Did the soil stick together? Could you roll the soil into a ball?

EXPLORE Soil, Activity 2:
Explore Soil Color
Students will observe that soil can be many colors by matching the color cards to photos of soil on the interactive activity. Students only need to observe and compare the different colors of soil. It is not necessary for students to learn to identify the different types of soil.

You will need the soil samples from Explore, Activity 1, and a squirt bottle of water. Allow students to observe and describe the soil samples that have been sprayed with water.

Students should have opportunities to explore soil in order to observe, compare, describe, and sort the components of soil. They should observe that soil is a mixture of minerals from weathered rocks, decayed plants and animals, air, and water. They should observe that soils can be different colors and textures depending on the components it contains.

Learn about the ABCs of Soil Science in the Related Links sections.


Hands-On Activity

Soil Shake
3 clean jars or soda bottles with lids
3 soil samples used in Explore, Activity 1

Use each soil sample to fill one container about a third of the way.
Add clear water to almost fill each container.

What happens? Do you see bubbles floating to the top?
Shake each container, set it down, and leave it for a few hours or over night.
What happens?

Student should be able to observe different layers in each container.
Sand and any pebbles in the soil will fill the bottom layer.
Silt will settle above the sand.
Clay will be in the top layer.
Plant pieces and other organic material will be on top and possibly float in the water that fills the remaining spaces.

You may choose to have a few students bring soil samples from home to include in the Soil Shake activity.

Students should follow the instructions for each question to complete the quiz.