Investigating Soil Fertility

Earth ecoSTEM Kit Materials Used: Soil Test Kits

ENGAGE - Students Observe This Phenomenon


GATHER Energy Investigations


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EXPLORE a Kit-Supported Learning Experience

Students, working in teams of 4, will use collect soils samples from the school-yard and then use the LusterLeaf Soil Test Kits to determine pH. Students can use Soils4Teachers’ diagram of “pH and Nutrient Availability” to predict soil test results, before testing for N, P and K.


Based on PH, students should be able to identify soils as acidic (<6); basic / alkaline (>7.5); or nearly neutral (6.6 – 7.4) and to use this Plant pH Preference List to match soils with plants that are likely to thrive in the schoolyard without the need for soil amendments. They can then compare those plants to a native plant list like this one or this one, in order to make recommendations about plants.


Three macronutrients needed by plants are in the atmosphere (carbon, oxygen and  hydrogen). The other 14  macronutrients are available only from soil. Students can use this chart to make models of plants affected by  soil nutrient deficiencies and then try to identify the deficiencies depicted by the models in a gallery walk.


Students may analyze an unknown soil sample, classify it according to nutrient deficiencies and pH, and prescribe soil amendments and conditioners. Students may also want to test soil samples before and after composting to detect increased fertility after food waste is decomposed.



After making sense of a core idea by engaging in science or engineering practices through the lens of crosscutting concepts, students revise their original explanations of a phenomenon.


Students may propose solutions to poor soils and choose a project to do, e.g. amending soils in the school garden to increase fertility.