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K, 1st, 2nd


60 minutes

Regional Focus



Google Docs, Google Slides

Digging Into the Secrets of Soil

Created By Teacher:
Last Updated:
Oct 2, 2022


This lesson introduces the idea of soil as an ecosystem and as a carbon sink.


Step 1 - Inquire: Students view a timelapse video that demonstrates the difference between soils with and without invertebrate decomposers.


Step 2 - Investigate: Students learn about the concept of soil as a carbon sink and examine soil samples to learn how to define soil.


Step 3 - Inspire: Students draw and record their findings demonstrating understanding of soil as an ecosystem and create a model of their soil artistically using found materials in the classroom.

Accompanying Teaching Materials
25 minutes
  • Teacher leads the discussion by asking “What is soil?” and recording student responses on the Teacher Slideshow.

  • Teacher asks for student definitions of soil before sharing soil samples.

  • Students are given a scoop of soil to investigate with a magnifying glass and their hands.

  • Students think, notice, and wonder about the soil sample.

  • Teacher asks students to describe what they find in the soil.

  • Students read or listen to Dirt: The Scoop on Soil by Natalie Myra Rosinsky. 

  • Teacher leads a discussion about how plants and animals help to make soil (i.e., worms and bugs help break down dead leaves and stems) and explains that many plants and animals need soil to live.

  • Teacher asks, “Do you think soil helps humans? How?”

  • Students watch Introduction to Climate Change.

  • Teacher asks the following questions:
    • Do you think healthy soil is good for the planet?
    • What can you do to be an Earth Warrior?
  • Teacher shares information about the secrets of soil and how it helps the Earth and all of us. This resource provides more information for teachers about the carbon cycle and carbon sinks.
25 minutes

  • Teacher leads students in reflecting on the importance of soil with the following questions:

    • Who is soil important to?

    • Why is soil important to humans and other living things?

    • What can YOU do to help protect our soil for all living things?

  • Students record their findings using the Student Document.

  • Students create their own model of the soil sample they investigated using found materials in the classroom.

  • Students should include:

    • Organisms found in their soil

    • Organic matter found in their soil

  • Students take their soil models home and share what they learned about the importance of soil and the carbon cycle with their families.

Teaching Tips


  • This lesson creates a collaborative learning environment for students to learn about soil as an ecosystem and a carbon sink for the environment.

  • This lesson features kinesthetic learning as students will be digging into samples of soil.

  • Students will develop a strong connection to self and others as they explore how we depend on soil.

  • Students will have an opportunity to share with family members the lessons learned via their artistic model of soil and its importance to all of us.

  • This lesson features age-appropriate vocabulary development.

Additional Prerequisites

  • It is necessary to obtain soil samples magnifying glasses before the lesson.

  • The teacher will need to gather “found” art materials from the classroom (e.g., paper, chenille stems, tissue paper, yarn, felt, glue, tape, etc.).

  • Teachers will need to get the book Dirt: The Scoop on Soil ahead of time. It is available in most public and school libraries.


  • Students can make predictions or answer questions after viewing the time-lapse video while exploring the soil samples, and as they develop their soil carbon sink models.

  • Students can work in pairs or teams to complete the hands-on soil activity and during the Inspire step.

  • Groups of students with mixed abilities can collaborate as they build their soil carbon sink models.

  • As an extension, students can walk around the schoolyard or playground and look for examples of “healthy” soil that is home to living organisms.

Scientist Notes

This lesson unravels the importance of soil and engages students to take actions to restore the soil for living things to survive. All materials have been fact-checked, and this lesson is recommended for teaching.

  • Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
    • LS1: From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes
      • K-LS1-1 Use observations to describe patterns of what plants and animals (including humans) need to survive.
  • Common Core English Language Arts Standards (CCSS.ELA)
    • Speaking & Listening (K-12)
      • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.K.1 Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about kindergarten topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups.
      • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.1.1 Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about grade 1 topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups.
      • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.2.1 Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about grade 2 topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups.


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