Children will develop skill in observation and cause and effect.
- Samples of soil
- Permanent marker
- Plastic plates
- Clear plastic cups
- Eyedroppers and spray bottles (optional)
- Resealable sandwich bags
- Masking tape
Invite children to offer their definitions of soil, dirt, and mud. Explain that scientists usually refer to dirt as soil. Tell children that in this activity, they can look closely at different soil samples.
- Invite children to help you gather soil from sources in and around your classroom — for example, from potted plants, the school garden, and the playground. Spoon each sample into a separate plastic bag, and use tape and a marker to label it with the soil's origins.
- Place the plastic plates on a flat surface outdoors. Then, pour each soil sample onto a plate. Label the plates with soil origins.
- Talk about the soil samples. What do they look like? How are they the same? Different? Next, ask children to add a bit of water using droppers or spray bottles. Talk about the changes children see.
- Suggest that students place a spoonful of each soil sample and a pinch of alum in separate cups filled with water. Stir, and talk about what happens. (The soil will separate into layers of different materials.)
For younger children: Let children add water to soil outdoors to make mud. Collect samples of the soil and water for children to study and compare and contrast.
For older children: After children have experimented with the different types of soil, place the soil in sealed paper bags. Invite children to take turns reaching in, feeling the soil, and attempting to identify which type of soil is in each bag.
Observation: How do students describe the different kinds of soil? How do they describe the changes they see in the soil as they conduct the simple experiments?
Remember: Caution children to not put their hands into their mouths when working with soil or alum.
Place soil samples in paper cups labeled with the soil source. Add enough water to moisten the soil, and cover each cup with clear plastic wrap. Place the cups in a sunny spot and keep them moist. Check from time to time to see if anything crops up!
- Backyard: One Small Square by Donald M. Silver
- Fran's Flower by Lisa Bruce
- From Seed to Plant by Gail Gibbons