Lesson 10

Just Plain Dirt?



Using soil samples collected from their yards or the school grounds, students will do a basic experiment, using the scientific principles of hypothesis and inquiry, to learn to identify the different types of soil particles.


Content Standards Addressed:

Common Core State Standards


Reproducible: Our Natural Resources​ ​

Natural resources like soil are important. To find out more about natural resources and learn some fast facts about soil, make copies of the reproducible. Assign as independent reading, or read aloud together.


Reproducible: FYI! Soil 

For background information on soil, make copies of the reproducible. Have students read the text and answer the Reflect and Review questions independently. Or read the text aloud and discuss the answers to the questions together.



  • 5 small coffee cans with plastic lids.
  • Small garden spades.
  • 5 quart-size glass jars with screw-on lids.
  • Liquid dishwasher detergent.
  • Pencils.
  • Water.
  • Rulers.
  • Index cards.
  • Measuring cups.



Divide the class into five groups. Assign each group an area of the school grounds, their yards, a local park or other location to collect a sample of soil. Have the students dig a hole at least 6-8 inches deep and fill the coffee containers with their samples.

In the classroom, have the students place a spoonful of their sample on a plain sheet of white paper. The students should record any physical characteristics of their sample they can see or feel, including color, texture, shapes and sizes. They may slowly add drops of water to their soil and note its texture and shape when wet. Students should now hypothesize what percentage of their soil comes from sand, silt or clay.

Students will now test their soil hypothesis. Have each group fill their quart jar two-thirds full of water. Pour one cup of their soil sample into the jar.

Add 3 tablespoons of detergent to each jar, cover tightly with lid, and shake well for 5 minutes. Jars should be allowed to sit undisturbed for 24 hours. The next day, have students place an index card next to the jar and mark where each layer of soil settled. Label each layer clay, silt or sand. Have students estimate the percentage of each type of soil using their index card.

Have the students discuss the types of soil found in their sample. What can this type of soil be used for? How common is this type of soil? How important is it to our area?​