Nature Works Everywhere Gardens Activity Guide: Soil


Activity Description: 

Students conduct a soil analysis to understand soil types and explore the relationship between the garden and healthy, fertile soil. Soil is a natural resource that is crucial to life on Earth. When managed properly, it supports a healthy soil food chain that is the basis for maintaining a functioning habitat that, in turn, makes the garden productive. 



  • Define concepts such as soil, soil composition, soil fertility, and weathering.


  • Construct an argument to show the importance of soil as a natural resource
  • Explain the impact of different soil types on a plant’s need for air and water.


  • Analyze soil tests to determine the soil type and fertility of school garden soil.


  • Conduct an experiment to analyze soil composition.
  • Conduct an experiment to analyze soil fertility.


  • Explain the difference between soil and dirt.
  • Discuss the components of soil.
  • Distinguish between soil particle size for sand, silt, and clay.
  • Discuss where plants get the nutrients they need in order to grow.
  • Explain how garden productivity can lead to healthy soil


  • State reasons why it is important to identify soil type and fertility of a garden. 
Educational Standards: 

From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes

LS1-5: Construct a scientific explanation based on evidence for how environmental and genetic factors influence the growth of organisms.

Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics

LS2-1: Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for the effects of resource availability on organisms and populations of organisms in an ecosystem.

LS2-2: Construct an explanation that predicts patterns of interactions among organisms across multiple ecosystems.

LS2-3: Develop a model to describe the cycling of matter and flow of energy among living and nonliving parts of an ecosystem.

Earth’s Systems

ESS2-1: Develop a model to describe the cycling of Earth’s materials and the flow of energy that drives this process.

ESS2-2: Construct an explanation based on evidence for how geoscience processes have changed Earth’s surface at varying time and spatial scales.

Earth and Human Activity

SS3-1: Construct a scientific explanation based on evidence for how the uneven distributions of Earth’s mineral, energy, and groundwater resources are the result of past and current geo-science processes.


Materials for teacher

  • Computer with Internet connection
  • An apple and paring knife (optional)
  • Samples of potting soil or potting mix and garden soil

Materials for students

  • Garden Projects notebook
  • Soil Analysis Field Report reproducibles (provided at the end of  this guide)
  • 1-quart glass jar, such as a Mason jar, with tight-fitting lid
  • Masking tape (to label the jars)
  • Digging tools such as a trowel or large spoon
  • Rulers
  • Water
  • Wire coat hanger (for soil test)
5-6 Class Periods
The Nature Conservancy and Discovery Education,