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Soil – it’s much more than dirt. Soil keeps us alive. Without soil, we would be hungry, thirsty, naked, homeless and breathless. Soils differ from location to location and are a range of colours. Around 25% of everything alive on Earth uses soil as a habitat.

Soil is also where we dig for treasure. Pick up a spade and see what educational treasures exist in the world beneath our feet.'

The first two soil themes (habitat and differences) are suitable for NZC levels 2 and up. The remaining themes (nutrients and climate change) are suitable for NZC levels 3 and up.

The students thought ‘dirt’ was pretty boring until their eyes were opened to ‘soil’ and what lies beneath the ground. They were fascinated to discover roots, glass, worms and clay. What made a huge impact on them was how important soil is to us and the world in which we live.



Soil is a habitat

Soil is a habitat
Niches within earthworms’ habitat
Activity: Observing soil microbes
Activity: New Zealand soil creatures

Did you know there are more things living under the ground in the soil than there are people living above ground? I was amazed by that! It is a bit freaky.

Cate, year 2 student

Soils differ from place to place

Soils are all different
What is in soil?
Soil properties
Soil names
Video: Important soil properties
Activity: Observing soil differences
Activity: Dig a hole
Activity: What makes up soil?
Activity: Visual soil assessment

We dug a MASSIVE hole, and I didn’t know the ground went that far down. When we went deeper, we found different soil like clay, and it was harder and crumbly. I loved being a scientist.

Flynn, year 2 student

Soil and nutrients

Managing nutrients
Focusing on phosphorus
The role of clover
Video: Phosphorus
Video: The importance of clover
Interactive: The terrestrial nitrogen cycle
Activity: Nutrient pollution
Activity: Water and nitrate leaching

Soil is spectacular because it is the main thing to help trees to grow, and trees give us oxygen to breathe. If we didn’t have soil, it could get tricky.

Alyssia, year 2 student

Soils and climate change

Inhibiting nitrous oxide emissions
Farming and environmental pollution
Activity: Farming and environmental issues

Teacher support materials

Online professional development

This online PD session recorded on 3 June 2015 introduces agriculture and horticulture teachers to resources on the Science Learning Hub that support three particular aspects – soils, plant reproduction and management practices.

SLH and agriculture/horticulture 

Topic planners and Unit plans

Topic planners offer a suggested pathway through some of the soils resources on the Science Learning Hub.
Soil theme – Is all soil the same? 
Soil theme - Nutrients

Unit plans on earthworms, a common soil animal:
Earthworms (lower primary)
Earthworms (upper primary)

Nature of science

It is important in science to not only build students’ knowledge and understanding of science but to support them to make connections between science concepts and the world around them. Soil is an ideal context for this as it links to many other aspects of science as well as global and local issues, such as growing food and farming practices.

Useful links

Visit the Hub’s Soil bucket in Pond.

Visit the Hub’s Pinterest board: We dig soil.

    Published 18 February 2016 Referencing Hub articles