Digging Up the Dirt on Dirt

Why is the soil near your home different from the soil you see on a beach or in a forest? Why does the soil in a desert look so different from the soil in a rain forest? In this activity, you and a family member can see just how different soils taken from different locations can be!


  Soil Sample
Soil Sample
Soil Sample
Size of
Shape of
Number of
different kinds
of particles
Plant matter?      
Living things?      


Spread the three soil samples out on three separate sheets of white paper and examine them. Answer the following questions and write your notes on a separate sheet of paper:

  1. Color: What color are the particles that make up each of the soils?
  2. Shape of particles: Do they have jagged edges? Are they rounded? What size are they? How many different particles are there?
  3. Plant matter: Is there decaying plant matter in the samples?
  4. Living things: Is there evidence of living things in the samples?


What conclusions can you draw about the environments from which each soil sample was taken? Which soil sample came from the environment that had the most plant and animal life? Which came from the environment that had the least plant and animal life? Could you guess exactly where each soil sample was taken from if you did not already know?