Kids love to dig in the soil and see what is there. But, soil is much much more than just something that is fun to play with as part of our rock activities for Earth Science we are looking more in depth at soil and what it’s made of. This activity is ideal for all ages of children but focuses on learning that takes place in year 3 science in the UK (7 and 8 years old).

Explore different soil samples to discover the rocks, sediments and natural materials that make it up with this simple earth science experiment for kids ideal for Key Stage 2 Rock Science Units.
Check out how we went about testing rocks – a perfect extension of this soil science experiment.

What Is Soil?

The soil is the top part of the Earth where plants grow. This loose material is made of a combination of eroded rocks and organic matter (decaying plants and animals). The type of rocks and living organisms combined with the conditions in the area determine the type of soil you will find. The soil has different layers. If you were to dig down and cut out a cross section, you would see the layers, or horizons (humus, top soil, subsoil, and parent material).

layers of the soil diagram from the all about soil activity pack from rainy day mum

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Exploring Types of Soil

Alongside our All about Soil Activity Pack this fun science experiment to investigate different types of soil is a great investigation for either plant science or earth science with kids.

All About Soil Printable Worksheets. Includes a soil model for reference, fill in the blank, data sheet for this experiment and more.

Supplies Needed for Soil Observations

I chose two locations in our backyard – one from our garden and one from a random location near the house. I dug down beneath the layer of potting soil in the garden to get soil below. I picked up a bag of peat moss at the garden center.

Explore different soil samples to discover the rocks, sediments and natural materials that make it up with this simple earth science experiment for kids ideal for Key Stage 2 Rock Science Units.

I placed a scoop of each type of soil and the peat moss on a white piece of card stock (thick paper). I talked to my kids about the soils. We had previously discussed the difference between sand, silt, clay, and humus. Soil is made of a combination of these particles. Make your own sediment jars to learn more about particle sizes. Dirt: The Scoop on Soil is a fabulous book to read and learn about what makes up soil. Making sediment jars also connects really well with learning about sedimentary rocks. Rock layers can form in a similar manner.

Questions to Ask While Observing Soil

  • What color is the soil?
  • What does the soil feel like? Does it feel gritty or smooth?
  • Is the soil crumbly or clumpy?
  • Does the soil have rocks? How about leaves or sticks?
  • Can you squish the soil into a ball?
  • Which soil is most like the peat moss? Why?

Use magnifying glasses, tweezers, and sieves to explore the soil.

Explore different soil samples to discover the rocks, sediments and natural materials that make it up with this simple earth science experiment for kids ideal for Key Stage 2 Rock Science Units.

Sifting the soil will help break apart the pieces and allow you to examine it more closely.

Explore different soil samples to discover the rocks, sediments and natural materials that make it up with this simple earth science experiment for kids ideal for Key Stage 2 Rock Science Units.

Scientists use a texture test as a quick way to identify the type of soil. Follow the directions on this guide to texture to test your own soil samples by adding a bit of water.

Explore different soil samples to discover the rocks, sediments and natural materials that make it up with this simple earth science experiment for kids ideal for Key Stage 2 Rock Science Units.

We added a bit of water to our soil samples and tried squishing them into a ribbon. We guess that our soils are some sort of silty clay.

Explore different soil samples to discover the rocks, sediments and natural materials that make it up with this simple earth science experiment for kids ideal for Key Stage 2 Rock Science Units.

Lastly, we looked at our peat moss. I wanted them to get to see exactly what Zoey and Sassafras used in their plant experiment. Peat moss is made of only organic matter – specifically, the decaying remains in a peat bog. It’s very nutrient rich. Gardeners love adding it to their gardens to help enrich the soil.

The texture guide doesn’t work on peat moss since it is all organic matter, but we added water to it anyway. It soaked up the water immediately. The other soil samples made mud and putty whereas the peat moss remained the same. We added a bit more water and it still soaked it in. We were able to squish the peat moss but it fell apart fairly easily. I took the opportunity to talk about the importance of organic matter in the garden. It holds water but it’s loose. This is great for plants. You can’t only have humus though. Soil needs a bit more stability and structure for the plants to grow.

More Rock and Earth Science Activities for Kids

Help your children understand the formation of the different types of rocks with this simple edible sedimentary rock activity that they can make and eat.
Help your children understand the formation of the different types of rocks with this simple edible igneous rock activity that they can make and eat.
Edible science experiment to make Slow Cooker Walnut and Cranberry Fudge as an example of Metamorphic Rocks

Making Edible Sedimentary Rocks

Making Edible Igneous Rocks

Making Edible Metamorphic Rocks

Recommended books to read and keep on rocks, fossils and Earth science for kids of all ages. With fiction and non-fiction recommendations but full of factual accounts plus hands-on activity books there are ideas to inspire and inform kids to want to learn more.

Read about the different types of soil, rocks, fossils and the earth with our recommendations of the best books for kids.

Soil Science Inspired by Zoey and Sassafras: The Pod and The Bog


The latest instalment of Zoey and Sassafras, The Pod and The Bog (I was sent a copy for review.), finds Zoey experimenting with plants. Pip, her magical frog friend, comes across a seed pod that he has never seen before. Zoey, Sassafras, and Pip attempt to discover what the rare magical plant is so they can return it to its home. In typical Zoey fashion, this involves setting up experiments and testing out ideas (usually with a few bumps along the way). Zoey first needs to discover what type of soil the seed pod grows in. They test sand, potting mix, water, and a sand/peat moss mix. The Zoey and Sassafras series has the perfect mix of real science and magical storytelling. The Pod and The Bog is my favorite of five available so far.

Storybook Science

I love pairing books with science activities. I think it helps kids form connections and gets them excited about science. That’s why I’m happy to be hosting the Storybook Science series for a third year. During the month of March, some amazing bloggers are sharing science activities inspired by books. This week we’re focusing on Science in the Garden. Next week is all about Science with Robots.

Here our previous posts at Rainy Day Mum for the series:

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Explore different soil samples to discover the rocks, sediments and natural materials that make it up with this simple earth science experiment for kids ideal for Key Stage 2 Rock Science Units.

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Explore different soil samples to discover the rocks, sediments and natural materials that make it up with this simple earth science experiment for kids ideal for Key Stage 2 Rock Science Units.
Author
Trisha Stanley

Trisha is an educator with a passion for science literacy and mom to Aiden, Lily, and Elon.

She’s the creator of Inspiration Laboratories, a blog dedicated to encouraging learning through creativity and play.

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