The Topic:

Easier - Soil is the loose top layer of our planet's crust. It is dirt or earth in which plant life can grow.
Harder - Soil covers a major portion of the earth's land surface. It is an important natural resource that either directly or indirectly supports most of the planet's life. Life here depends upon soil for food. Plants are rooted in soil and obtain needed nutrients there. Animals get their nutrients from plants or from other animals that eat plants. Many animals make their homes or are sheltered in the soil. Microbes in the soil cause the breakdown and decay of dead organisms, a process that in turn adds more nutrients to the soil.
Soil is a mixture of mineral and organic materials plus air and water. The contents of soil varies in different locations and is constantly changing. There are many different kinds and types of soils. Each has certain characteristics including a specific color and composition. Different kinds of soils support the growth of different types of plants and also determine how well that plant life grows. Soil is formed slowly, but can be easily destroyed. Therefore, soil conservation is important for continued support of life.
S.K. Worm Answers Your Questions About Soil and Stuff! from the US Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service
It’s a dirty job but someone has to do it--S.K.Worm, the official annelid, or worm answers students questions about soil.
Soil Science Education by I. Trakhtenberg from National Aeronautics and Space Administration
This megasite on soils includes great information on soil, soil songs, science fair ideas, and much, much more!
Another Soil Megasite:
2) World of Soil
Soil Types from University of Illinois
People describe soil types in all kinds of ways.
Related Websites:
2) Characteristics of Different Soil Types
3) Soil Layers
4) Soil Layers from Enchanted Learning
5) Utah Soils - Background Information
6) Wetland Soil
What on Earth is Soil? from the Gulf of Mexico Program, Environmental Protection Agency
Here you find a list of quick facts about soil and what it is used for.
Other Introductory Sites:
2) Dirt on Soil: What's Really Going On Underground from Discovery School
3) Introduction to Soils
4) Soil from US Dept. of Agriculture
5) Soil from Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, New Zealand
6) Soils: An Introduction from Geobopological Survey
First visit several of the websites for soil. Then complete one or more of the following activities:
Print Out And Color! Learn more about soils while decorating the coloring book found at Sammy Soil - A Coloring Book.
Read A Soil Story. Connect up to some online soil stories at Once Upon A Sandy Loam. After reading a few, try writing an original soil story of your own. Send it to the webmaster at
Complete A Soils Adventure! Detective Le Plant needs you to get your hands dirty by helping him dig for clues in the soil. To solve this case, you must find out what soil is, why it is important, and in what kinds of soil plants grow. Happy digging! Get started at Great Plant Escape: Soiled Again from University of Illinois.
Take A Virtual Trip Into Soil. Visit the online exhibit from Chicago's Field Museum of Natural History, Underground Adventure.
Sing Some Soil Songs. You can find them and more at Soil Songs (Rock 'N Soil). You might also want to try writing a 'soil song' of your own. Send it to the webmaster at
Complete A Soil WebQuest. Follow or adapt the procedures found at one of the following webQuest sites:
1) Is That Your Final Answer? (Grades 6-8)
2) It's All About Soil by S.Merritt
3) Soil Science and Worm Composting by J. Newton (Grade 2)
4) Soils (Grade 2) by J.L. Messick
5) To Plow or Not to Plow... by K. Anderson
Write A Soil Poem. Some people write poetry about subjects they care for or respect. Try your hand at writing a poem about soil. You can find some examples at Soil Poems. Send it to the webmaster at
Improve The Soil. You can find ideas for this at sites like Improve the Soil in Your Garden - Naturally and Worm Composting Basics by J. Fong and P.Hewitt. You can find lots more information about worms and composting at another eduScapes 42eXplore project: Worms.
Investigate Erosion In Your Neighborhood. Follow the procedures found at Investigate and Report on Erosion from Dirtmeister's Science Reporters.
Websites By Kids For Kids
Get the Latest Dirt on...Soils! (2000 ThinkQuest Junior Project)
This site tells about the formation and composition of soil, types of soil, soil profiles and conservation of soil. Included are several experiments and activities designed to help you discover and learn about soil characteristics.
More Soil Websites
Biological Soil Crusts
Biological soil crusts -- also known as cryptogamic, microbiotic, cryptobiotic, and microphytic crusts, are commonly found in semiarid and arid environments throughout the world. Biological soil crusts are formed by living organisms and their by-products, creating a crust of soil particles bound together by organic materials.
Related Websites:
2) Biological Soil Crusts from National Science & Technology Center
3) Cryptobiotic Soils: Holding the Place in Place by J. Belnap
4) Kingdom of the Crusts by J.T. Csotonyi
Dirtland from Microbe Zoo, Michigan State University
Learn about the microbes living in the soil, on rocks, inside roots, buried under miles of Earth, in compost piles and toxic waste, and all over the Earth's surface.
History of the Dustbowl
The Dust Bowl was a ecological and human disaster caused by misuse of land and years of sustained drought.
Related Websites:
2) 1930's Dust Bowl excerpted from 'The Dust Bowl, Men, Dirt and Depression' by
Paul Bonnifield
3) Dust Storms and their Damage
4) Surviving the Dust Bowl from PBS American Experience
5) US Dustbowl Fears Return from BBC News
6) Voices from the Dust Bowl from American Folklife Center, Library of Congress
Maine State Soil - Chesuncook by I. Fernandez, University of Maine
Does your state have an official soil? Learn about Maine's selection.
Related Website:
2) State and Provincial Soils from Geobopological Survey
Museum of Dirt
Bordering on frivolity - - certainly humorous, this online museum houses a collection of soil and dirt samples from around the world. Did you ever want to view dirt from Harry Truman's yard? You can find it here!
Other More Serious Soil Galleries:
2) Soils of the Day
3) Soils Photo Gallery from Iowa State University
Protecting Your Property From Erosion
This site contains information about soil erosion and ways to prevent it.
Related Websites:
2) Soil: Erosion and Conservation
3) Soil Resources In Agricultural Areas (Online slide show)
4) Why Should We Worry About Soil Erosion?
Soil Survey: Its Use from Soil and Water Conservation Society, Ankeny, IA
Learn about the National Cooperative Soil Survey (NCSS), a nationwide partnership involving federal, regional, state, and local agencies. These institutions work together to inventory and interpret U.S. soils and to publish and distribute soil surveys for public use.
State of Soil: Fact Sheet from Soil and Water Conservation Society, Ankeny, IA
This information sheet provides information about soils and threats to them.
Related Website:
2) Health of Our Soils from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Twelve Soil Orders - Soil Taxonomy from University of Idaho
This updated soil taxonomy was first published by the United States Department of Agriculture's Soil Survey Staff. It places soils in one of twelve categories known as orders. Here is a collection of images that illustrate the distribution, properties, and use of these 12 soil orders.
Websites For Teachers
Activity # 1 - Water is a Component of Soil (Grade 4)
Using a paper towel to remove water from soil, students determine that water is one of the four ingredients in the soil.
Related Activities:
2) Activity # 2 - Air is a Component of Soil (Grade 4)
3) Activity # 3 - Categorizing Soil Particles (Grade 4)
4) Activity # 4 - Soil Ingredients (Grade 4)
5) Activity # 5 - A Recipe for Soil (Grade 4)
6) Activity # 6 - Soil Types (Grade 4)
7) Activity # 7 - Finding Our Roots in the Soil (Grade 4)
Could You Live Here? (Grades 4-8) by G. Spinnie, J. Sutherland, R. Edgerton, & S. Coons
Investigate the heat absorption and transfer properties of various soils to make an inference about Martian soil.
Erosion Lab (Grade 3-4) from University of Arizona
The first part of this activity would demonstrate how erosion works in nature. In the second part, the students would use tissue paper to simulate what prevents erosions in nature.
How Are Soils Classified? (Grades K-5) by R. Sund, B. Tillery, and L. Trowbridge
Students will classify a soil sample by adding water to it and seeing if the wet soil will roll into a cigar shape and if so, will it hold this shape when dry.
Life In the Soil
Visit this site for an article that outlines an experiment to measure the life found in a soil sample.
Soil, Soil, Soil from The Learning Network,1871,2123-126557-2-36845,00.html
This site connects you to a 16-lesson science unit on soils.
organic matter
soil scientist
decaying plant
decaying animal
soil sample
biological soil crusts
peat moss
dust bowl
glacial till
soil science
soil fertility
Created by Annette Lamb and Larry Johnson, 3/02.