Grade Levels: K-3

This page provides information to support educators and families in teaching K-3 students about soil. It is designed to complement the Soil topic page on BrainPOP Jr.

Soil is one of Earth’s most important natural resources. This movie will explore soil and how people and animals rely on it for survival. It will also explore the contents of soil. We recommend doing plenty of hands-on activities with soil and have children analyze soil samples using hand lenses or microscopes.

Review with children that most plants rely on soil to grow. Animals rely on soil for shelter and on plants for food. People rely on plants and animals for food, and on plants and soil for shelter. Soil is so important that a whole field of science is dedicated just to its study—soil science. Emphasize the importance of soil to children, and discuss all the things people get from soil directly and indirectly.

Soil contains living and nonliving things including rocks, plants, and animals. There are also bits of dead plants and animals in soil. When living things die, they decompose and release nutrients into the soil. You can teach the cyclical pattern of nature through the study of a plant’s growth and decomposition in the soil. Plants use the nutrients of decomposed plants for another growth cycle in the soil. Plants also absorb minerals from the soil; many of these minerals come from rocks.

Not all soils are alike—there are different soils in different places. For example, forest soil tends to be dark, damp, and to contain a lot of humus. Humus-rich soil is able to hold plenty of water, and also is plentiful in nutrients. This allows the growth of a wide range of plants, and consequently supports different kinds of animals. In contrast, sandy soil drains water. Sandy soil can be found in drier areas like deserts or in some areas near lakes or ponds. Sandy soil tends to be loose, dry, and light brown. There is less humus, and therefore fewer nutrients, in sandy soil than in forest soil. Clay soils usually contain a high percentage of mineral in the soil, often causing clay soil to be dark red in color. Clay soil also holds plenty of water and tends to be thick and heavy when wet. Certain kinds of plants, like certain species of grasses, sunflowers, and ironweed, can grow well in clay soil. Clay soil also creates business and also provides shelter for many people through the construction of bricks, which are made of clay that has been molded and baked.

The soil can be divided into three main layers: topsoil, subsoil, and bedrock. Topsoil contains the most humus, which is the dark part of the soil that is rich in nutrients. Under the topsoil are several layers that make up the subsoil. These layers tend to be sandier, and have less humus. Under the subsoil is bedrock, which is solid rock.

Encourage your children to think of ways to keep our soil clean. Pollutants can impact soil negatively and prevent plants from growing. This in turn can affect animals and people. Recycling, using organic products, and throwing litter away in proper receptacles are just a few easy ways to care for our soil.