The Dirt on Dirt
This nature activity for preschoolers is all about dirt and soil!
You can use packaged soil or gather your own dirt. Avoid soil that has any fertilizer in it. If you are using bagged soil, you will need to add sticks, rocks and pebbles, dried leaves, and roots to it for this activity.
Make sure you have added enough so that each student or pair of students gets some of the extra dirt ingredients with about a cup of the soil.
Spray each sample with a little bit of water before the lesson. You don’t want mud, but you do want the soil to be a little moist.
1 per student or pair of students
- Tweezers, spoons, and magnifying glasses
1 set per student or pairs of students
Talk about dirt! If you are planning to grow plants in your classroom- this is a great pre-planting activity!
What is dirt?
Where do you find dirt?
What might live in dirt?
Are there any animals that live in the dirt?
Pass out soil samples to students or pairs of students on a plate. Give each student a pair of tweezers, a spoon and magnifying glass. Encourage students to make observations of the soil using their senses. Look closely, feel it, even give it a little sniff!
Introduce the “ingredients” of soil- rocks/minerals, air, water, and humus- and challenge your students to find each ingredient in their soil.
- Rocks: Can they find rocks in their soil? Most of what they see is really rock- the little bits of soil and sand!
- Air: To observe air in the soil, move the particles around and ask the students to guess what is between all the “stuff” they can see.
- Water: To observe water in the soil, students should use their sense of touch. Can they feel the water? What happens if they squeeze a handful of soil? If it sticks together, why might it stick together?
- Humus: Is there anything else in their soil? All of the organic (from living things) stuff in their soil is humus. Make observations about the types of humus they can see in their soil.
Extension/Alternate Activity: Make your own dirt from craft supplies. Replace the rocks and minerals with pom poms of different sizes and the sticks, leaves, and roots with popsicle sticks, buttons, and string. Get creative! Plant some paper flowers in your new dirt!
Rocks and mineral make up about 45% of healthy soil. As rocks are broken down or weathered, these smaller pieces make up soil. Air is about 25% of healthy soil. If soil is extremely compacted, it’s not great for plants - animals moving through the soil is the best way for air to get in! Water makes up about 25% and humus makes up the remaining 5%. Humus is all of the formerly living stuff - roots, dead leaves, and even animal poop. Decomposers like worm and fungi help to make the humus usable by plants.