Classroom Activity: Soil Separation Experiment

August 30, 2011 | 9:08 pm

Learning about soil doesn’t have to be boring! This quick and easy soil separation experiment will keep your students engaged in your science lessons. The first two teachers to respond to this newsletter will receive up to five free soil samplings from across the nation!

Learning about soil doesn’t have to be boring! This quick and easy soil separation experiment will keep your students engaged in your science lessons. The Soil Separation Activity is a part of the Nourishing the Planet in the 21st Century curriculum, Lesson 2: Properties of Soil.

In order to better serve your classroom needs, we’re offering free soil samplings from across the country to the first two teachers to respond to this particular newsletter! Email us now to receive your free soil samplings.

As part of the second lesson, Properties of Soil, students learn that different soils have different characteristics by examining soil types that have been mixed with water to settle. Observing how some soils separate in the water, and how some don’t, allows students to identify the differences between different soil types.

Materials needed for the experiment:

  • 3 clear, 12-oz. plastic bottles
  • 10 oz each of potting soil, local soil, and sand
  • Water
  • Funnel (optional)

Fill about two-thirds of each 12-oz plastic bottle full of soil. Place potting soil, local soil and sand in separate bottles. (A funnel or a paper cone may make it easier to get the soil in the bottles.) Add water to near the top of each bottle. Place caps in the bottles, shake the contents well, and place the bottles in a location where they will not be disturbed. Prepare at least one day before making observations.

During the class time activity, keep the identity of each of the soils in the bottles a secret. Allow students to record their own observations and make hypotheses. This is what they should observe:

  • The potting soil will show a thick layer of dark material on the bottom, a thick layer of cloudy water, and a thinner layer of material on the top.
  • Local soils may differ, but a typical soil will show layering similar to potting soil, though there may be less material floating on the surface.
  • Most of the sand will form a very thick layer on the bottom of the container. There will be a thick layer of clear water and a very thin layer of material on the surface.

For more detailed instructions of the activity and access to accompanying worksheets and discussion topics, download a free copy of the curriculum here.