Comparing Soils

Part of the "Sorting Out Soils" Collection


Students will use their senses to observe and compare soils from their school yard.

Estimated Time

45 Minutes

Setting Required

Inside and Outside


  • SKE2b. Students will use their senses to observe soils by physical attributes such as smell, texture, color, particle or grain size, etc.
  • SKE2c. Students will recognize earth materials – soil, rocks, water, air, etc.

a. Ask questions to identify and describe earth materials—soil, rocks, water, and air.

b. Use tools to observe and record physical attributes of soil such as texture and color.


  • Trowel (1)
  • Containers (4, shoebox-sized)
  • Hand lenses or other magnifying tools
  • Sensory Soil handout (16, 4 per small group)


  1. Take a walk around the school to collect soil samples from four different areas that seem to have different soils (playground, garden bed, near a sidewalk, under a tree, etc).
  2. When the class returns to the gathering place, divide students into four groups each with one of the soil samples. Provide each group with a hand lens (or another magnifying tool) and a Sensory Soil reproducible to record how their soil sample looks (color, grain size, etc), smells, and feels.
  3. Allow students to rotate through the four stations (providing a new Sensory Soil sheet for each station), so they can record their observations of each.
  4. Optional: To further explore the color of the soils, the soils can either be rubbed onto the paper to capture their pigment or they can easily be made into paints by removing the debris and mixing with a small amount of water.