Soil Stories: Second Grade Soil Explorations

Students dig and discover that soil is a mixture of living, once-living, and nonliving things. During their explorations they sort, classify, and compare different soils.  They also conduct experiments to test soils capacity to hold water and use their senses to in order to compare soils. Students prepare a class book about what they know about soil. There is a list of tradebooks and other useful resources. Pre-assessment and summative assessment opportunities are available in this unit of study. It is a well structured unit that fosters curiosity. Students get their hands into the soil to build on what can be found in soil and discover characteristics and functions of soil. The book that students create can serve as a summative assessment. Because of the trade books and the opportunity to write about what they know about soil, there is a strong English/Language Arts connection.

Standards & Objectives

Academic standards
Write opinion pieces in which they introduce the topic or book they are writing about, state an opinion, supply reasons that support the opinion, use...
Write informative/explanatory texts in which they introduce a topic, use facts and definitions to develop points, and provide a concluding statement...
Write narratives in which they recount a well-elaborated event or short sequence of events, include details to describe actions, thoughts, and...
Participate in shared research and writing projects (e.g., read a number of books on a single topic to produce a report; record science observations).
GLE 0201.3.1
Write in a variety of modes for different audiences and purposes.
GLE 0201.3.3
Organize ideas into a topic paragraph with complete coherent sentences.
GLE 0207.7.1
Compare and record the components of a variety of soil types.
GLE 0506.3.2
Develop and apply the concept of variable.
Participate in shared research and writing projects, such exploring a number of books on a single topic or engaging in science experiments to produce a report.
Write opinion pieces on topics or texts.
Write informative/explanatory texts.
Write narratives recounting an event or short sequence of events.
Alignment of this item to academic standards is based on recommendations from content creators, resource curators, and visitors to this website. It is the responsibility of each educator to verify that the materials are appropriate for your content area, aligned to current academic standards, and will be beneficial to your specific students.
Learning objectives: 


To introduce the topic of soil and its importance, and to learn what students already know about soil.

Lesson Variations

Blooms taxonomy level: 

Helpful Hints

Master Materials List: Soil Stories: 

Sinking Into Soil

  • 1 jar filled with soil from schoolyard or garden
  • 2 large pieces chart paper
  • Markers
  • Drawing paper
  • Colored pencils or crayons

Space Travelers

Per team of 3-4 students:

  • 1 large sheet newspaper
  • 2 trowels
  • 1 egg carton
  • 2 sets tweezers
  • 1 hand lens
  • Life Lab Field log and pencils

Dissecting scope (optional)

Sensual Soils

  • 4 containers with different types of soil:
  • Clay, compost, garden soil, sand
  • Scrap paper or sticky notes
  • 4 lunch-sized brown paper bags
  • 4 large pieces construction paper

Colored markers

Does It Hold Water?

  • Four lamp chimneys or plastic soda bottles with the bottoms cut off
  • 4 moistened samples of very different soils: sand, clay, garden soil, compost
  • Screen or cheesecloth
  • Strong tape
  • 4 quart jars
  • 4 measuring cups
  • Water
  • Life Lab Field Log and pencils

Which Soil Do Plants Prefer?

For the class:

  • 4 different types of soil in plastic bags: compost, clay, sand, garden soil
  • “Our Ideas about Soil” and “Questions we have about Soil” lists

For Each Group of 5:

  • 4” pot filled with one of the soil types
  • 1 large spoon
  • 1 ruler
  • Label for pot
  • Marking pen
  • Bean seeds (Blue Lake or Bush Beans)
  • Measuring cups for water
  • Which Soil do Plants Prefer? Log Sheet

Great Book of Soil

For the class:

  • 1 seedling or seed
  • Poster board for making the book cover
  • Cardstock or other material for book binding
  • “Our Ideas about Soil” list and “Questions we Have about Soil” list

For Each Student:

  • 1 sheet of drawing paper with lines
  • Crayons or colored pencils



Story Books:

  • The Earth Is Sore: Native Americans on Nature. By Amon, Aline, adap. New York: Atheneum, 1981. This is a collection of poems and poetic statements about earth and sky by Native Americans.
  • Everybody Needs a Rock. By Byrd Baylor. New York: Scribners, 1974. Find out how to hunt for a rock—no, the right rock.
  • Mole Moves House. By Elizabeth Buchanan. New York: Doubleday, 1989. An exuberant mole refuses to believe that his human neighbors think he is a pest.
  • The Magic School Bus inside the Earth. By Joanna Cole. New York: Scholastic, 1987. A special field trip on the magic school bus allows Ms. Frizzle’s class to get a first-hand look inside the Earth.
  • The Quicksand Book. By Tomie dePaola. New York: Holiday, 1977. An adventure in the jungle leads to a discussion of the composition of quicksand . . . and rescue procedures. This book also tells how to make your own quicksand.
  • Deep Down Underground. By Olivier Dunrea. New York: Macmillan, 1989. In this counting picture book, garden animals present the numbers from one to ten, as earthworms, toads, ants and others march, burrow, scurry and scooch deep down underground.
  • Small Pig. By Arnold Lobel. New York: Harper, 1969. A pig who has had his pen cleaned up by the farmer’s wife, goes off in search of mud and discovers that good mud is hard to find.
  • The Sun, the Wind and the Rain. By Lisa Peters. New York: H. Holt, 1988. The earth forms a mountain, shaping it with the sun, wind, and rain, while a child, in a parallel effort at the beach, makes a tall sand mountain also affected by the elements.
  • Once There Was a Tree. By Natalia Romanova. New York: Dial, 1985. This is a Russian tale about a decomposing tree.