Lesson ideas

28th November 2003 at 00:00

* Make a close study of different patches of land around the school site, each measuring about one square metre. Record what is above the ground and what is just below the surface. Compare what you find. Draw your results and use different reference materials to identify any creatures you locate How did the position of the land alter your findings?

* Investigate how the soil has had an effect on individuals in the past week. Who has been planting? How was what you've eaten grown?

* Find out about animals that live below the ground. Why is this their chosen habitat? How have they adapted to life in and around the soil?

* Make a survey of different foods. Find out which foods grow beneath the ground. Display your findings in an informative way.

* Do some growing experiments using different types of soil. Which types of soil are preferred by different plants? How can you increase their rate of growth?

* Make your own wormery. Undertake an observational study of how the worms live and how they travel.

* Set up an experiment to find out which types of soil are preferred by different mini-beasts. What are the conditions most enjoyed by the different species?

Mike Beale


Soil type, erosion and conservation are major topics in the geography curriculum. This article offers plenty of fascinating insights that will enrich these studies. It also invites a creative response to this vital resource.

* At KS1, pupils can compare the appearance of different soils - using either real samples andor photographs. This will develop observational skills (PoS 1b) and geographical vocabulary (PoS 2a). Links can be made with the artdesign and technology curricula by mixing paints to match the colour of the soils that pupils are looking at.

* At KS2, soil infiltration rates can be investigated as part of QCA's unit 11: water. Push half-metre lengths of plastic drainpipe a few centimetres into soil in different areas of use - a flowerbed or a playing field, for example - and time how long it takes for a given quantity of water to sink in. Relate the results to some human activity - for instance, soil that has been improved by gardening, or soil that has been trampled by people walking on it.

* At KS3, the characteristics of soil can be explored without expensive equipment. For example, with the aid of a magnifying glass, pupils can record colour, texture, organic and mineral matter and animal life (PoS 1c, 2b). Their findings can be related to vegetation and land use (PoS 6e).

* Soil is also an ideal topic for GCSE or A-level projects. Observational techniques can be developed with the use of straightforward and relatively inexpensive equipment - for example, a pH testing kit. Data-logging equipment can be used to compare soil temperature at different depths below the surface over a given period of time. The implications for soil management should also be considered.

Keith Grimwade


* KS34: Create projects that link your soil topic with Section 1a, c and i, and the skills in Sections 2 and 3 of the CE programmes of study. Discuss pupils' concerns and opinions, and develop action plans. Consider cross-curricular methods of provision - for example, through science (environmental issues), RE (sanctity of life), food technology (organic food, healthy eating), and geography (sustainable development).

* Who is responsible for protecting the quality of our soil? Should the Government have a role in this? In groups, suggest three laws that would help to protect English soil and all the life that is dependent on it.

* How could you raise people's awareness about the importance of soil to life on Earth? Create a campaign that would inform your school andor the wider community. Find facts in this article or from the internet to support your ideas, opinions and projects.

Will Ord


* KS3: If you have school grounds where you can dig, make a hole of at least one metre in depth so you can show how the colour and composition of the soil varies at different depths.

* Investigate how different soils retain or drain water, the amount of water and decaying matter (humus) they contain, and if chemicals such as chalk are present. Also test the acidity and alkalinity. The techniques are given in most "old" standard texts.

* Suspend a muslin bag of soil in a sealed container with a small amount of carbon-dioxide indicator (limewater). The indicator shows that living things give off the gas.

* KS23 pupils can count the number of different types of organism seen to get an idea of the range of species. At ASA2, link this to a field investigation on the distribution of plants and animals. Calculate the diversity index. Identifying soil organisms is not easy, but there are some useful guides around - "Soil and Litter Minibeasts", produced by the Field Studies Council, is good for pupils at all levels.

Jackie Hardie

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