What on Earth Is in the Earth?
- Grades: PreK–K
- Unit Plan:
Students will explore, sort and classify the living and non-living substances contained within soil.
- Discuss the physical properties of soil, sand, and rocks.
- Discover some of the materials found in the earth.
- Sort, classify, compare and contrast the materials found in soil.
- Understand that some things on Earth are living and some are not.
- Record data.
- Discuss how humans care for the Earth by not littering.
- 1 open container of sand
- 1 open container of small rocks, including minerals
- 1 open container of soil
- Soil mixed with small rocks, leaves, twigs, living or dead insects, small bone pieces (you might want to use chicken bones), a seed, a flower, a piece of plastic trash, and a piece of metal trash
- Magnifying glasses
- What on Earth Is in the Earth? Sorting Sheet (PDF)
- Old newspapers
Set Up and Prepare
- Prepare for each pair of students:
1-2 cups of soil in a one-gallon plastic bag
Sorting sheet printable for sorting soil
- Copy the Sorting Sheet printable for each student to record findings.
- Cover tables with old newspapers
- Divide students into science partner pairs.
Step 1: Gather children together in a circle and remind them of the landforms you discussed in Lesson One (mountains, hills, valleys, plains, canyons, plateaus, and islands). Tell them that the land is made of materials that you want to share with them today. Pass around the three open containers. Invite students to examine and feel the materials. After everyone has had an opportunity to touch them, ask if anyone knows what they are called. Explain that the landforms of earth are made up of rocks, sand, and soil. Ask them to tell you on which landforms you might find these materials. Explain that rocks are hard and non-living. Sand is composed of tiny rocks. Soil is made up of tiny rocks as well, but also dead plants and animals that give the soil the nutrients needed for plants to grow.
Step 2: Pair the children into science partners with one partner as A and one as B. Tell them that today they will observe the materials in the soils and see how they are the same and how they are different. The partners will classify the materials found in the soil into two groups: living and non-living. Non-living things are rocks, both large and small. Living things are plants and animals.
Step 3: Distribute bags of soil to science partners. Before opening the bags, ask students to tell you what they see in the bag. Inform the students that they will be sifting their soil and classifying their objects into living things and non-living things. Have Partner A empty the bag onto the paper. Ask students what they see? Partner B holds the sifter while Partner A spoons dirt onto the sifter. (If you do not have access to sifters, have the students simply sift with their fingers.) Partner B sifts and partner A collects items from the sifter to sort and classify into living and non-living items. Have the partners switch roles until all the soil is sifted and the materials are sorted. Students may group items in those categories any way they like.
Step 4: Ask the science partners to each record their findings on a new sorting sheet using pictures and words.
Step 5: Gather students together and have each team share their findings. Discuss the trash items found in the soil and how plastic and metal take a long time to break down and degrade. Talk about keeping the Earth clean by not littering.
Step 6: Be sure to have students wash their hands after handling the soil.
Supporting All Learners
Pair students heterogeneously. Encourage them to label their pictures with words or beginning letters of words. Take dictation for students not yet able to write.
Make a display of the items found in the soil by having the students glue objects onto a cardboard mount. Create a “What on Earth is in the Earth?” museum for other classes to come and see. Have students stand by their findings and explain what they discovered.
Ask students to look at soil near their home. Be sure to have parents assist and give permission to dig.
- Sort materials found in soil.
- Record materials found in soil.
- Did students use new vocabulary?
- Were they able to work in partners?
- Did they identify living and non-living things found in soil?
- Were they engaged and on task the entire time?
- How might you do this lesson differently next time?
Check to see if students were categorizing living and non-living things correctly. Observe how students worked with their partners.