Target Grade Level / Age Range:

Grades 9-12

Estimated Time:

20 minutes of prep time

50 minutes of instructional time


Students will identify some of the careers that are related to soil biology.  


  • Writing utensils

Essential Files (maps, charts, pictures, or documents)

Background – Agricultural Connections (what would a teacher need to know to be able to teach this content)

The instructor should understand what organizations locally, regionally, or statewide may be involved in working with soils and could offer guest speakers to address careers in agriculture. Some possible organizations include:

  • USDA NRCS field staff
  • Soil and Water Conservation District
  • County Extension and Outreach
  • Private soils labs
  • Commodity organizations
  • Cooperatives
  • Companies working with precision agriculture

Interest Approach – Engagement (what will you do to engage students at the beginning of the lesson)

Option 1: For a lighthearted approach, play the video 100 Kids Tell Us What They Want to Be When They Grow Up Ask students what career they were interested in when they were five years old and at ten years old.

Option 2: For a more serious approach, play the video The Science of Soil: Choosing a Career Ask students if they have ever thought about a career in soil science or a related field.


Option 1:  Let students know that a panel of soil experts will be coming in to speak to the class and answer questions they have about soils, soil biology, and careers in soils. Give students 5-10 minutes to think of questions they would like to ask the experts. Have each student come up with at least one technical question – a clarifying question from some of the course material about soils. Have students come up with at least one personal question – something about their job and how they got started in the field. The instructor may want to collect or review the questions to ensure there is minimal duplication.

Invite a panel of at least three guests to speak on soils. The guests should represent a wide array of perspectives. Suggested panelists could include a farmer, a soil scientist, a microbiologist, a soil and water conservation officer, a precision agriculture specialist, or other related career field.

Set the panel up in the front of the classroom and let them introduce themselves with a brief background. Explain they are here to answer the student’s questions. Have the students begin asking their prepared questions and allow the panel to respond.

At the end of the class period, thank the panel for sharing their stories. Have the students shake hands with each of the panelists and thank them for coming. Follow up the panel by providing the panelist’s contact information to the students. Follow up the panel by sending a thank you card signed by all the students to each of the panelists.

Option 2: Ask students to identify a career in soils or related fields they would like to profile. Students should then research to identify a person they could contact and interview in that career field. Careers could be directly related to soils and soil science or they could be supporting careers like an accountant at a soils company or a soils teacher at a university. Have students use the interview template to conduct their interview. This can be outside of class. It may take several days to connect with the potential interviewee so be sure to assign this several days prior to the class presentations.

Ask students to present an oral synopsis of their interview and a summary of their career profile to the class. Allow for approximately three minutes for each student. If time allows, ask the student presenter questions about their career profile.

Did You Know? (Ag facts)

  • A soil scientist studies the upper few meters of the Earth’s crust in terms of its physical and chemical properties; distribution, genesis and morphology; and biological components.

Extension Activities (how students can carry this beyond the classroom)

Suggested Companion Resources (books and websites)


  • This material is based upon work supported by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under number NR196114XXXXC003. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.
  • The grant by which this project is funded is administered by the Conservation Districts of Iowa.
  • The Biology of Soil
  • Jackie Stroud Agricultural Scientist Science


Will Fett

Organization Affiliation

Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation

Agriculture Literacy Outcomes

  • T4.9-12.f. Predict the types of careers and skills agricultural scientists will need in the future to support agricultural production and meet the needs of a growing population
  • T5.9-12.d. Describe essential agricultural careers related to production, consumption, and regulation

Iowa Core Standards

  • 21.9–12.ES.1. Communicate and work productively with others, incorporating different perspectives and cross-cultural understanding, to increase innovation and the quality of work.
  • 21.9–12.ES.2. Adapt to various roles and responsibilities and work flexibly in climates of ambiguity and changing priorities.
  • 21.9–12.ES.3. Demonstrate leadership skills, integrity, ethical behavior, and social responsibility while collaborating to achieve common goals

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.