Resources for Grades 3-5 Activity – Soil Builders

Students explore differences in soil types and what those differences mean to people and to plants. They also investigate the role soil organisms play, both in building soil and in decomposition.

For the complete activity and more like this, purchase the Explore Your Environment: K-8 Activity Guide at Shop.PLT.org and/or attend a professional development training in your state.

Below are some supporting resources for this activity.

STUDENT PAGES

Download the copyright-free student pages that are included with this activity:

Making a Soil Shake (PDF)

What's on the Menu? (PDF)

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

The following tools and resources may be used to enhance the activity.

  • Dirt with Sid the Science Kid

    Dirt on Dirt, an episode of Sid the Science Kid produced by PBS Kids, explores what makes dirt, dirt! In this episode, Sid and his friends learn about the different types of soil. Paired with a Dirt on Dirt Activity, students ages PreK-2 can follow Sid’s adventure and investigate the dirt and soil on their school grounds.

  • Ag Across America

    Ag Across America is an online geography game for grades 3-5. With this game, students will learn more about how farms provide our food, fiber, and energy.  The game guides students through a series of video and trivia questions about farms across the U.S. When you answer correctly, players collect items to have on their own virtual farm. Find more games and resources for young learners at My American Farm, and professional development opportunities for educators through On the Farm STEM.

  • Starting with Soil

    Soil is more than dirt under our feet. Students ages 7-9 can use this Starting with Soil app to learn about the organic materials that make up soil, and how plants and animals work together to make the soil that we depend on to grow food. With this app, developed by the Center for Ecoliteracy, students can simulate the 500-year process of making 1-inch of topsoil by planting seeds and building compost. The app can be accompanied with classroom instruction or students can use it on their own.

  • Can Plants Help Slow Soil Erosion?

    This activity from Scientific American called Can Plants Help Slow Soil Erosion? helps students learn how soil erosion causes ecological problems, pollutes waterways, and increases the risk of natural disasters. Students complete an experiment to test the impact of methods to prevent soil erosion.

  • Evolution of Organic: The Story of the Organic Movement Documentary

    This 86-minute documentary film, Evolution of Organic: The Story of the Organic Movement Documentary, tells the story of the growing organic agriculture movement. It shares insight into some of the most effective organic farming techniques and the people inspiring and building the movement. The documentary is divided into four acts that can be watched one after another or separately. The fourth act concludes with hope for the future of organic farming and offers advice for young people for ways to grow organic farming and carbon farming and sequester carbon dioxide.

  • Skype a Scientist

    The Skype a Scientist program matches more than 500 scientists with classrooms worldwide. Available for any level along the K-12 spectrum, a typical Q&A-style video chat lasts between 30 to 60 minutes and covers topics in the scientist’s area of expertise and what it’s like to be a scientist. Follow the link to browse scientists and sign up!

  • Pee Wee Meets the Pollinators

    This illustrated children’s story takes students on an adventure to a rooftop garden to learn about the amazing work of pollinators. Witness the birth of a monarch butterfly, follow a bee, and meet a chorus of crickets. The book also contains poems, songs as well as additional notes to benefit teachers, parents, and children. To purchase Pee Wee Meets the Pollinators or other books in the Pee Wee series visit Castle Compost.

  • NatureWorks Video Series

    Discover the natural world and the connections that make nature work in this 16-part video series for students in grades 3-6. Developed and produced by New Hampshire Public Television and the Squam Lakes Natural Science Center, each episode is fifteen minutes long and helps students explore the ways living things interact with the environment. NatureWorks is designed to align with state and national science frameworks and standards and is a great way to introduce young people to the natural sciences.

    Each video consists of five distinct segments: an instructional section, which covers basic concepts like habitat, adaptation and biomes; an interactive Q&A segment that explores the show topics in greater detail; a close-up segment focusing on a particular animal or plant; an Outdoor Trek featuring student reports; and a review which sums up material presented in the program.

  • Mighty Mole and Super Soil – for Grades 1-3

    What creatures live in the ground and how do they help make the soil healthy? A book from Dawn Publications, Mighty Mole and Super Soil introduces children to an underground ecosystem that is largely invisible to humans but vital to the health of the planet. In this short story, children follow a mole as she digs tunnels, finds food, escapes predators, and raises a family, all the while aerating and enriching the soil around her. With Mighty Mole and Super Soil, students learn about the importance of soil and the often unseen ecosystems underground. To take student learning even further, try pairing the story with these activities from Dawn Publications based on the book.

  • USDA People’s Garden

    Gardening resources, grant information, and seasonal tips are available at the U.S. Department of Agriculture People’s Garden website.

  • U.S. Composting Council

    All types of composting from backyard to large-scale, community-wide composting are discussed by the U.S. Composting Council. Visit their Web site for a list of composting activities and resources.

  • Web Soil Survey from the USDA

    This is a website that contains the web soil survey from the USDA.

  • Think Garden Video Series

    This Think Garden video collection was produced by Kentucky Educational Television for elementary students as a teaching tool about growing food and all elements around food gardening. Consider using it to support PLT GreenWorks! or GreenSchools projects as we enter the growing season.

  • Unlock the Secrets in the Soil

    Check out the infographic from the USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service! These infographics colorfully illustrate soil health: what soil is made of, what’s underneath, and what it does. 

  • SoilWeb

    A free app that can be downloaded onto Apple and Android devices. A more technical application, SoilWeb allows users to access GPS based, real-time USDA-NRCS soil survey data. Using your geographic location, this app retrieves soil type summaries, including soil series names and image profiles.

  • Functions of Forest Soil

    This informational handout, made available by Montana State University Extension Forestry, describes forest soil profiles, functions, and the effects that natural and manmade impacts can have on overall forest health. 

  • WildLab Bird

    A free app that can be downloaded onto any Apple device (try iBird Lite for Android). Use WildLab Bird to learn the basics of bird identification. This application uses audio, photographs, maps, and the process of elimination to help identify over 200 bird species. Sightings can also be entered into a national bird watching database for comparison. 

  • NACD’s Soil Education Resources

    Have a look at NACD’s soil resources: Soil to Spoon and Dig Deeper: Mysteries in the Soil. Existing tools feature a poster contest, student booklets, educator guides, and ideas for hands-on activities.

  • Invasive Paper Project

    The Invasive Paper Project travels throughout Detroit to offer papermaking demos and workshops with invasive plants (like Phragmites, Honeysuckle, Garlic Mustard) that have been removed from city parks, lots, and green spaces in many different communities. This project creates community awareness about invasive plant species and their effects on local ecosystems, while also providing an opportunity to think about invasive plant life differently. While eradication is important, projects like this one allow participants to experiment with new uses and products from otherwise unwanted raw materials. Consider turning your next papermaking activity into a service-learning project by using invasive species pulp instead of paper scraps!

  • School Garden Checklist

    Planning to start a garden project? Download this step-by-step guide, provided by the Let’s Move! Presidential initiative, to ensure you won’t miss any information that could support the health of your garden. Detailed checklists offer tips about soil safety, site selection, overall design, plant palette, how to build and use the garden, and the importance of creating local partnerships and utilizing local resources.

  • Recycle City

    EPA’s Recycle City’s interactive website showcases an interactive map, scavenger hunt, and game that all explore ways homes and businesses can recycle, reuse, or reduce waste. Use this website to spark interesting discussions around waste and recycling in places and spaces where students can have direct impacts.