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New York Botanical Garden


K, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th



Resource Types

  • Lesson Plans
  • Activity - Outdoors
  • Worksheets
  • Articles and Websites
  • Videos, 1 minute, 35 seconds, CC, Subtitles

Regional Focus

North America, United States, USA - Northeast, New York, New York City



School Gardening Part 2: Soil and Compost

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  • This collection of resources will help students learn the importance of soil in creating a school garden and provide teachers with important background information, tips, and techniques to monitor soil health.
  • The resource includes an introductory video, a lesson plan for lower elementary students, a tips handout, three documents for teachers, and links to other related resources.
Teaching Tips


  • Younger students will love the creative lesson that compares soil to a cooking recipe.
  • The resource provides a wealth of background information for teachers to help them start and maintain a successful school garden.

Additional Prerequisites

  • This is the second part of a six-part school gardening series from the New York Botanical Garden.  Part One provides important information to get started with a school garden project.
  • The series has resources for students in grades K-8, this part, however, has just one lesson for grades K-3.
  • The NYC Compost Project link brings you to the main page for the Bronx Green-Up program. Under the Learn tab, there is an informational video about composting.
  • There is a link to Cornell University Soil Testing where teachers or schools can pay for more comprehensive soil testing. There are also links for reading a soil test and reviews of tests, however, these links are broken.


  • The lesson plan is engaging for lower elementary students, and upper elementary or middle school students can conduct the soil testing outlined in the Tip Sheet.
  • These resources on soil health can connect to many different science topics including ecosystems, microorganisms, pH, parts of a plant, photosynthesis, and more.
  • To connect this resource to climate change, students can brainstorm how climate change may impact soil health.
  • The video Why Is Soil One of the Most Amazing Things on Earth? can help connect soil health to climate change as it explains the carbon storage ability of soil. It is also engaging if you are using this resource with older students.
Scientist Notes
This resource from the New York Botanical Garden is part two of the school gardening series, focusing on soil and compost for school garden projects. A short video introduces soil and compost considerations, and a series of linked tip sheets and teacher resources provide background. The ‘What is Soil?’ teacher exercise is explicit and features a thorough description of soil formation and the soil horizons. The resource includes instructions for basic soil tests, such as texture, pH, and percolation, allowing students to get their hands dirty and better understand soil composition. This resource is a comprehensive introduction to garden soil and is recommended for teaching.
  • Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
    • CCC.Structure and Function: The way an object is shaped or structured determines many of its properties and functions.
      • 3-5-CCC-Structure and Function.1. Different materials have different substructures, which can sometimes be observed.
    • CCC.Systems and System Models: A system is an organized group of related objects or components; models can be used for understanding and predicting the behavior of systems.
      • K-2-CCC-Systems and System Models.2. Systems in the natural and designed world have parts that work together.
    • ESS2: Earth's Systems
      • K-ESS2-2 Construct an argument supported by evidence for how plants and animals (including humans) can change the environment to meet their needs.
    • LS2: Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
      • 5-LS2-1 Develop a model to describe the movement of matter among plants, animals, decomposers, and the environment.
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