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Engage: What is soil?

Are dirt and soil the same thing?

What is soil?

Click on the picture to explore soils from around the world.

Photo of soil

Explore 1: Weathering

Which of these objects can be changed over time?

chocolate cookie and rock

If you answered both, you’re right!

What would happen if you pounded on the rock? The cookie?

What would happen if you put water drops on the rock? The cookie?

What would happen if you squished the rock? The cookie?

How long would it take you to change the rock? The cookie?

Explore 2: Decomposition

The leaves in this picture were once part of plants and trees.

How are the leaves similar?

How are they different?

Decomposing leaves

What will happen to the leaves over time?

Explore 3: What's the scoop?

Click on the picture to download the Scoop On Soil game. Follow the instructions on the page to download the game for Windows or for Mac.

After downloading the game, click on the yellow “Soil Factory” arrow to learn about the components of soil and how soils are formed. Use the arrows at the bottom of the screen to scroll left and right.

You will explore other parts of this interactive in the Elaborate portion of this lesson.

Scoop on Soil game

Explain: How are soils formed?

Soils are formed over time by the weathering of rock and the decomposition of plant and animal remains. Decomposition is the rotting or decaying of organic materials such as plant and animal remains.

Click on the photo to learn more about decomposition.

dragonfly on leaves

Weathering is the breaking down of rocks over time by forces of weather such as rain and wind.

Click on the photo to learn more about weathering. You can stop the video after the 3:20 mark.

rock arch

Elaborate: Soil Uses and Conservation

Soil is a natural resource. Most living things depend on soil. It is an important part of your life, and not just because you walk around on it every day.

If you haven’t done so already, click on the picture to download the Scoop On Soil game. Follow the instructions on the page to download the game for Windows® or for Mac. After downloading the game, click on the brown “Soil at Work” arrow to learn more.

Scoop on Soil game

Why is soil important? Record your thoughts in your notebook.

Erosion is when soil is blown or washed away. Soil erosion affects our food and water supplies. Click on the “Help Stop Soil Erosion” poster to learn more.

Evaluate

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 learning about how soils are formed by weathering of rock and the decomposition of plant and animal remains—Grade 3 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.

Cookies will be used in a demonstration during Explore 1. Contact your school nurse for information about students with food allergies.

ENGAGE
Students can record their responses in a notebook, or you may record student responses on chart paper or in a class notebook. Students may have varied knowledge of soil at this time. They observed, compared, described, and sorted components of soil by size, texture, and color in Grade 1 (7)(A) and should be able to list the components of soil, but they may need a refresher.

Dirt is what you sweep off your floor or scrape off your shoes. Soil is

  • what we use for planting;
  • full of nutrients from decaying plants and animals;
  • a mixture of weathered rock, decayed plants and animals, air, and water; and
  • a natural resource.

Most living things depend on soil.

At this time, students should define soil in their own words.

After clicking on the picture, students may click on different types of soil to learn about them. Students should simply observe that different types of soil exist throughout the world. Students do not need to record any of this information or learn the names of each order of soil shown with each picture.

EXPLORE 1
Allow time for students to answer each question in their notebooks.

Students should predict that the cookie could be changed in a matter of minutes. They should predict that the rock can also be changed, but it will take more time and effort. It is important to point out that rocks are much harder than cookies and take a very long time to change or be weathered.

The following hands-on activity lays the foundation for understanding that soils are formed by weathering of rock.

You will need the following:

  1. Chewy/soft chocolate chip cookies
  2. Crisp chocolate chip cookies
  3. Resealable plastic sandwich bags
  4. Eye dropper or pipette
  5. Water

Provide each group of students with one soft chocolate chip cookie, one crisp chocolate chip cookie, and two resealable plastic sandwich bags.

Instruct students to record their observations of each cookie and place one cookie in each bag.

Display one of each type of cookie and the eye dropper/pipette in a location easily viewable by all students.

Allow a student volunteer to drop several drops of water onto each cookie. Ask students to share their observations.

Allow student groups time to change or weather their cookies and record their observations.

You may also place 2-3 cookies in a jar and shake daily to show kids the change from rocks to sand/dirt, mimicking weathering.

EXPLORE 2
Students should begin to understand how soils are formed by the decomposition of plant and animal remains.

Use this hands-on activity for students to explore how soils are formed by the decomposition of plant and animals remains.

You will need the following materials for each group of 4-5 students:

  1. a handful of soil
  2. a decaying leaf
  3. a fresh leaf
  4. a hand lens

Display the leaves and the soil.

  • How are the two leaves different? 
  • How are they similar?

Allow students time to look at each item using the hand lens and to record their observations in their notebooks.

  • What caused the fresh leaf to turn brown and ragged?
  • What do you think will happen to the decaying leaf next?
  • Do you see pieces of leaves and plants in the soil?
  • Do you see other things in the soil, too?

Allow students to discover the leaf's progression from new leaf → decaying leaf → soil. Students should record their discoveries in their notebooks.

You may also take a walk around the school grounds and identify areas where leaves and other organic materials (e.g., plant parts, animals remains, food products) are decomposing. You may choose to allow students to use a digital camera to record their observations.

EXPLORE 3
Follow the directions on the screen to download the Scoop On Soil game.

Click on the yellow “Soil Factory” arrow.

Allow students to click on the different scene elements to learn about soil.

Use the arrows at the bottom of the screen to scroll left and right.

Students will explore other parts of this interactive in the Elaborate portion of this lesson.

EXPLAIN
Students may view the videos to learn more about weathering and decomposition. Stop the weathering video after the 3:20 mark.

Weathering is the breaking down of rocks over time by forces of weather such as rain and wind. Small particles of rock are called sediment.

Erosion occurs when sediment from broken down rocks is moved by wind or water to a new location.

Students will study changes to Earth’s surface such as weathering, erosion, and deposition in grade 4.

Organic materials found in soil vary based on the environment in which the soil is found. Plant pieces, animal waste and remains, insects, and more may be found in soil.

ELABORATE
This section of the lesson addresses Grade 3 TEKS (7)(D), “explore the characteristics of natural resources that make them useful in products and materials such as clothing and furniture and how resources may be conserved.”

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