Diggin' Dirt

This lesson developed by Leona and Jim Meeks
Recommended Ages: Preschool and Elementary


What is dirt?
Is all dirt the same?
Can I make dirt?

What You Need

  1. 6 - 8 buckets or pails
  2. Big digging spoons, trowels or little shovels
  3. A wagon might be helpful
  4. Paper, felt pen and tape
  5. The outdoors and places where we can go digging!
  6. Water
  7. Bean, radish, pumpkin seeds
  8. Pots to grow plants in
  9. Big mixing bowl or a plastic wash basin

What You Do

Experiment #1- Getting Soil Samples

  1. Is all dirt the same? Go out on a dirt scavenger hunt! Load up a wagon with pails or buckets and tools to dig with.

  2. Search and find different kinds of dirt like sand, silt, clay, humus, and gravel mixed with dirt. Also get some twigs and dried up leaves. Put samples of all this stuff in separate pails or buckets!

  3. When you take the buckets indoors, make labels for each kind of dirt with your paper and felt pens. Tape the labels on the buckets so you know which container has which kind of dirt in it.

  4. Check it out! Look at the different kinds of dirt. How do they look? What different colors do you see? What different textures do you see?

  5. Touch and feel the dirt samples with your hands and fingers. Which kinds of dirt feel soft and smooth? Which kinds of dirt feel rough and hard?

  6. Smell the dirt samples. Can you smell different smells? How would you describe them?

Experiment #2- Make Potting Soils - Growing a Plant

  1. Get an empty bucket or pail. Put in different kinds of dirt materials to mix up what you think might be a really good potting soil to start a seed and grow a plant.

  2. Mix up your dirt, twig and leaf ingredients really well. You may want to crush twigs and leaves to get them to mix up with the soil.

  3. Put some of your own potting soil in a pot. With your finger, poke a hole down into the middle of the pot's dirt.

  4. Place a bean, radish or pumpkin seed down into the hole.

  5. Gently push some of the soil from around the top sides of the pot onto the hole to cover up your seed.

  6. Put a little water on the soil. Seeds need water, soil and sunlight to "germinate" and grow into little baby plants.

  7. Put your pot on a table or windowsill where it will get lots of sunlight.

  8. Water every few days when the soil feels dry.

  9. Watch what happens over the next couple of weeks!

  10. You may want to try several different dirt mixtures and pots to see which soil you make works the best for a seed to grow.

Experiment #3- Making Mud!

  1. Oh boy! Try mixing a little water with different types of your dirt to see what kind of mud you can make!

  2. Which types of dirt needed very little water to become muddy? Which types of dirt needed quite a bit of water to make mud?

  3. What happened with gravel?

  4. What do you think this has to do with growing plants?

  5. What do you think this has to do with where we want to build houses?

What Is Happening

Our earth is made up of water and earth. Earth is many different kinds of soils and dirts. Different kinds of dirt are important for different things! If we try to grow plants in sand or gravel what happens? Plants need dirt that has nutrients and the ingredients that are food for the plants to grow. Plants need dirt that will absorb or suck up rain so they can get water they need to grow. Some plants and trees need one kind of soil, and other kinds of plants and trees need other kinds of soil and dirt. Some dirt seems really hard, and some dirt seems really soft. We build houses and buildings on dirt that will stay put and filter out water. What would happen if you had a house built on potting soil or sand? Dirt is pretty neat stuff.