Soil Characterization

Protocol

Students will identify horizons in a soil profile, observe the structure, color, consistence, texture, and the presence of rocks, roots, and carbonates of each horizon, and take samples for use in laboratory characterization protocols.

Supporting Protocols

Protocols to help in completion of the main protocol
Students will measure the mass of a dry soil sample of known total volume including pore space to determine the density of the whole sample.
Students will suspend a known mass of dry soil in water and measure the specific gravity of the suspension after sand and then silt has settled out of the suspension to determine the amount of each soil particle size group in the sample
Students will use a technique chosen by their teacher to expose a soil profile for characterization.
Students will use a GLOBE Soil Fertility Kit to prepare samples and determine whether nitrate, phosphate, and potassium are absent from a soil sample or present in low, medium or high concentrations.
Students will measure the volume of a known mass of dry soil particles and calculate the density of the particle portion only of a soil sample.
Students will prepare a one-to-one mixture of dry soil and distilled water and then measure the pH of the liquid left after most of the soil has settled to the bottom of the mixture.

Field Guides

Step-by-step instructions for collection data according to the protocols.

Data Sheets

Sheets to be filled out during data collection

Learning Activities

Activities to help students learn more about the instruments and protocols
Students discover that soil properties such as moisture and temperature can vary considerably across a single landscape.
Students make mud pies by adding water to the various soil components, letting them dry and observing the pie's characteristics.
Students are introduced to the basic concepts of how water passes through soil in an activity which illustrates the scientific method. More advanced students investigate the effects of soil characteristics on water infiltration and the chemistry of water that has passed through soil
Beginning students are introduced to the basic concepts of how water passes through soil in an activity which illustrates the scientific method. More advanced students investigate the effects of soil characteristics on water infiltration and the chemistry of water that has passed through soil
Students collect, describe and compare soils from their own backyards.
Students will understand the geologic phenomena of weathering and erosion. These processes, along with deposition, shape our landforms and contribute to the development of parent material in the soil formation process.
Students simulate environmental conditions in order to determine the key factors that affect the decomposition of organic material in soil.
Teams of students play a game in which they gather data and distort the values of certain measurements. They then estimate the values of the measurements taken by other teams and try to detect their errors.
An activity which highlights the importance of learning about the soils on Earth. In this activity students explore some of the many uses of soils, learn the five soil-forming factors, and gain a better understanding of how little of Earth's surface is covered in soil.