Dirty Hands, happy kids: A Soil Science activity made fun and easy


Director of Life Rocks

Cover Image for Dirty Hands, happy kids:  A Soil Science activity made fun and easy
·6 min read

When children are enabled to learn about science in a fun and interactive way, they can develop a lifelong love of nature. Soil science is beyond fascinating and can be explored in many interactive ways. There are loads of great soil science activities for children that are both fun and educational. Action-based learning activities are always the best, which means; hands getting dirty! In this article, we will explore one awesome action-based soil science activity for children (and ‘grown up’ kids) that is sure to feed curiosity and connection for soils and earth sciences. This activity only needs a few basic materials, and it can be created on a scale that is easy for you and your child or children. So, let's explore the science of erosion and soils with this fun and easy experiment.

Life Rocks Soil Discovery Sessions

You will need:

-A shallow dish, play tray, baking tray, sand pit or backyard. Depending upon the scale, you can accommodate your soil lesson. The bigger the experiment, the more mess there is! And not everyone has access to a backyard

-Soil components, soil samples and organic materials. Backyard soil, clay, gravel, sand and mulch can be found in your local landscape supply store or gathered from all around - get creative with your sources! Different soil samples can be found by collecting soils from a place where it is okay to take soil samples that may be used within your model. The same thing goes for collecting organic materials like leaves, mulch, sticks or grasses. Think - backyards, friendly parks, woodlands and wild places where appropriate and reasonable.

-Water and something to pour, spray tip or mist it from. Use water coming from an appropriate source ( bottle, tap, watering can, hose, etc. ) in a location with preparedness, for wetness!

Let's Do It!:

Create a landscape from your soil components in your large dish, tray, backyard or sandpit. Take some time to mould and craft a miniature landscape with your children or child, shaping valleys and mountains or whatever you both feel inspired to create. Use sticks to create trees, grasses to emulate meadows and so on. Combine various soil components and discuss the combinations and their potential effects once water is moving through the terrain you have made.

Use water on your landscape by pouring it into certain sections to fill rivers, lakes, or other water systems you may have made. Spray lightly from above with a hose to create rain. Even spraying a hose up through Earth can model a volcanic eruption! The way you play with water can demonstrate light rain, flooding, and river and ocean systems. It all depends on how you build your landscape, which takes some imagination. Don't worry, children have loads of it.

Some questions for your children: Some questions that can stimulate curiosity in your soil science students before, during and after this experiment:

How is this model landscape going to be impacted by water moving through it or onto it?

How are different soil materials or soil types affected by water?

Looking at these soils we have collected, which ones do we think will be most impacted by water?

How will the way water enters into the model landscape affect what happens?

How will the way we combine the soil components in our landscape make a difference once we add the water?

What way is the best way to add water? Sprinkle, pour, mist, flood or from which direction or speed?

Did the water move in the way we expected it to? If not, why not?

Did the soils and landscape move in the way we expected them to?

Can we create an earthquake or a volcano?

Playing with the soil comes naturally for children.

And that’s a splat!

Did you have fun? Soils are pretty interesting. If you want to go a layer deeper with your now passionate soil students, you can explore; how do different particle sizes of clay, sand, silt, rock and organic matter move and distribute through natural environments based on weather patterns and water cycles. You can explore why some particles soak up water, whilst others repel water. Or why some particles stick together in the presence of water, as -where sand disperses. You may even explore how different climatic soils may have developed to deal with various impacts of weather and water movement. You may even want to explore how microorganisms such as algae, fungi and bacteria impact soil structure. There really is so much to explore in the mostly unseen world of soils. Bringing Soils to life has always been a passion of ours at Life Rocks. All of life comes from the soil, and for that, we are very grateful and honestly astounded! Soils really are worth protecting, and what better way to protect something than to know deeply about it? That’s why we have a beautiful illustrated book on soils, The Soil Book. The beautiful art, rhyming and scientific knowledge woven into this book really brings the magic of soils to life for children, and our Soil Book can be a great supplement to other everyday discoveries made in the natural world with your help ( parents and teachers) like doing the experiment outlined in this article! Enjoy Soils! Asher, Life Rocks