Investigation Sequence


Soil and Earth Worms

Written by:

Matt Rohlfsen and Justin Boeve                 Date


Focus Questions

What is soil? What is it made up of?


Content: Earth, Physical, & Life

All plants and animals are dependent on different types of soil in order to survive.

Cross cutting concepts


Science Practice


Personal, Social, Technology, Nature of Science, History


Background information

All soils are mixtures in one proportion or another, of three types of particles; sand, silt and clay. The soil is the home of innumerable kinds of plant and animal life that range in size from those too small to be seen with a powerful microscope to large ones such as earthworms. These living organisms have a marked effect on the characteristics of the soil itself.

Activity Sequence

1. Mud Pie Soil
2. The Soil Is Alive
3. Soil Prints
4. Mr. Earthworm
5. Do You Need The Soil?
6. Soil wal

Activity Descriptions

Activity 1
Mud Pie Soil
Soil samples of sand, silt, and clay, magnifying glass, 3 buckets, 3 water containers, 3 sticks, 3 large heavy pieces of cardboard, 3 name cards for soil, 3 sacks, scrap paper, lined paper
Exploration question: What does soil look like? What does soil feel like?
1. Set up three soil stations, one soil station for sand, one for clay, one for silt. Place a sack and materials for mud pies at each station.
2. Show students the 3 types of soil. Have them feel and look at each one. Have them crumble it with their fingers. Are they tough, soft, dry? After they explored have them look at the sample under a magnifying glass. Discuss appearance and color. Which one has the largest particles or pieces? (sand) Which one has the smallest particles or pieces? (clay) Which one is the lightest color? (sand) Which one has the darkest color? (silt and clay) How are they alike? (they are all soil) Which one has the best smell?
3. Divide class into three groups. Each group will spend two minutes at each soil station.
4. At each station, students will write on a scrap of paper a descriptive word about that sample and place it in the bag.
5. After all students have been to all stations, assign each group to one station. One group will be the sand group, one the silt group and one the clay group. Each group will take one bag and compose a "Soil Poem." Use these words in the bag and arrange them randomly to create descriptive free verse poem.
6. Tell the students they are going to make mud pies. They need to brainstorm the steps needed for a mud pie recipe. Accept ideas and list them on a chart. Rewrite the chart into the correct order.

Collect dry soil in a bucket
Set some dry soil aside in a pile
Collect water in a jar
Add some of the water to the soil in the bucket
Stir with a stick or your hand
Add more water or soil to get the right consistency
On your cardboard place a pile of mud
Shape it to be a nice pile
Set aside to dry
Clean up

7. Have each group use most of the given soil sample to get the soil ready for pies. They will make mud pies at their station. Each group should make one pie and place it on the labeled cardboard.
8. Set the cardboards on the table and label. Observe while drying. Post the poems above each one. Compare each of the pies.

Activity 2
The Soil is Alive
Soil sample from a forested area, a grassy area, and/or a cultivated field, egg cartons (broken apart in lengths of two to six cups), pipe cleaners, markers, seeds, glue, scrap paper, scissors.
Exploration question: What are some things you would find in soil?
1. Have students brainstorm what they think will be in the soil. Record
2. Set up the soil samples on white paper. Let students look for bugs, worms, roots, spiders, leaves, anything else they can find. Try to identify what they have found. Worms (earthworms or night crawlers, having no legs), Grubs (any wormlike animal with legs), Insects (any hard-shelled, or soft-bodied, or winged animal with three pairs of legs). Which soil sample has the smallest animal life? How do these animals live in the soil?
3. Have the students make an egg carton animal to represent something they saw in the soil. Earthworms, millipedes, and ants are easy to make with egg cartons.

Activity 3
Mr. Earthworm
Black paper, large jar, rocks, paper towels, earthworms, hand lens (if possible), soil, worm food (coffee grounds, lettuce, egg shells, grass clippings).
Exploration question: How do earthworms improve the soil?
1. Give each child a paper towel and place a worm on it. Observe and examine the worms. Some questions you can ask the children are: How does the worm move? What are its bristles for? Can you see eyes, ears, and a mouth? Show them how to tell the front from the rear. What happens when you touch the worm? What do worms eat (decaying plants and animals in the soil)?
2. Place a few rocks on the bottom of a jar. Add soil, dry leaves, and several worms. Put about a teaspoon full of coffee grounds on top of the soil and keep it moist but NOT WET. Cover the outside of the jar with black paper. Worms don’t have eyes or ears but are very sensitive to light. They only come out at night to look for food. Every few days, look at the tunnels the worms have made along the glass. Explain to the students that the worms make these tunnels and make room for air to get into the soil so the plant’s roots can have air to breathe.
3. Return your earthworms to the garden, making sure they’re covered with some soil.

Activity 4
Do you need the soil?
Large, unlined, recipe cards; chalkboard or chart paper; crayons
Exploration question: What are some things that need soil to survive?
1. Have students name all living things they saw on their way to school in the morning or living things they saw the evening before while they played. (i.e. leaves, grass, berries, moles, trees, bugs, worms, birds, bees, flowers, etc.). Make a list on the chalkboard.
2. Have students make pictures on recipe cards depicting each living thing. There should be one card for each lining thing listed on the chalkboard.
3. Make two categories on the chalkboard or chart paper. "Needs Soil", and "Does not Need Soil". As the teacher holds up a card, have the students tell if the living thing needs soil and why. Tape the picture on its proper category. All the pictures should be under, "Need Soil". Be sure to include a picture of boys and girls.

Activity 5
Soil walk
Magnifying glasses
Exploration question: What are some things you can see in the soil with the use of a magnifying glass that you can’t see with the naked eye?
1. Visit several places where different kinds of soil can be found. Try such areas as a pitcher’s mound, the bottom of a slide, or under a rotten log. At each spot, have the children look closely at the soil with the magnifying glass. They might find bits of plants, animals, clay, rocks, and sand. Look for leaves, sticks, roots, and remains of animals such as insects and worms. Students can pick up, feel, and smell each kind of soil and look for different colored soils. Make sure that your students return the soil to the place where they found it to prevent erosion.
2. Students will record everything they find in a "soil walk" journal. They will label each item with where they found it and the type of soil.

Dr. Robert Sweetland's notes