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The Sensational Soil Sampling Project

Discover the characteristics of your local soil! Is your soil sandy or mostly clay? What color is your soil when it is dry? Is there a lot of organic material in your soil? What do you observe when you shake the soil in a tube with water and allow the layers to separate? In this project, you will share and compare your soil samples with those of other students across the U.S. What patterns do you think will emerge?

The Task

Students observe the make-up of their local soil by mixing it with water and examining the different components that settle out in turn. Schools will share and compare their local soil samples with the samples of the other project participants and analyze and draw conclusions from the patterns that emerge.


If you are using the kit materials from the TEAMS Science Earth Processes module, you will find the materials described on page 4:4 of the teacher's guide. If you are not using the kit or perhaps are not even a TEAMS Science school, you can still join the project and share your data! You will need materials similar to those described below:


  1. Dig up some soil from your local area.
  2. Observe the soil with a hand lens and describe it in as much detail as you can. Keep asking yourself what else you can observe, that perhaps no one else has noticed!
  3. Add enough soil to the container to cover the bottom about 5 - 10 cm deep, depending on how large the container is - you don't need too much soil.
  4. Add water to the container until it is 3/4 full and attach the lid securely.
  5. Shake the container to soil and water vigorously until the water and soil are well mixed.
  6. Set the container aside and observe as the components of the soil settle to the bottom in turn. Record your observations in a lab notebook or journal.
  7. Allow the soil to settle for several days undisturbed and record your observations.
  8. What type of material makes up the majority of the sample?
  9. Is there evidence of organic material in the sample?
  10. Does the soil contain mostly sand or silt and clay?
  11. If you have completed the TEAMS Science activity, Settling Soil, compare your observations with the samples of clay, potting soil, and clay soil from the kit.
  12. Share your observations with other schools by recording your observations below.
  13. Keep thinking about the soil in your area. Here are some questions to get you started.
  14. Be sure to share ideas and questions with other schools in the discussion group area of this electronic classroom. Keep in touch with me directly by e-mail!
  15. Have fun and Keep Doing Science!

Related Links

For more information on soil types and characteristics, here are some links to related information!

Initial Soil Observation

Description of soil color:




Description of soil texture:




Were things growing in this soil?


If yes, describe them:




Other Observations:




Soil Observations After Settling in Water

How many distinct layers?:


Describe the texture of the thickest layer using a rating scale of 1-4

very fine = 1
fine = 2
course = 3
most course = 4
small rocks

Describe the texture of the second thickest layer using a rating scale of 1-4

very fine = 1
fine = 2
course = 3
most course = 4
small rocks

How long did it take for the water to become clear?

Less than 10 minutes
10 - 30 minutes
30-60 minutes
1-6 hours
6-24 hours
1-3 days
Never got clear

Other Observations:




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