Target Grade Level / Age Range

5 th Grade


20 minutes.


Students will learn that soil is a valuable natural resource that farmers are conscientious about caring for.


  • Two cooking aprons.
  • Two paper chef’s hats (optional).
  • Large mixing bowl and spoon.
  • Paper bag containing a few rocks and various imitation leaves, twigs, acorns, moss (from Hobby Lobby).
  • Second paper bag containing an empty water bottle, empty vitamin bottle, small solar yard light, and rubber or plastic worms.
  • Third paper bag containing a kitchen timer.

Suggested Companion Resources

  • From the Ground Up NCI AITC publication.


  • Natural resource – Materials or substances such as minerals, forests, water, and fertile land that occur in nature and can be used for economic gain.
  • Soil erosion – The washing away of soil by the flow of water.
  • Conservation – A careful preservation and protection of something; especially planned management of a natural resource to prevent exploitation, destruction, or neglect.

Background – Agricultural Connections

Farms provide food, clothing and shelter for millions of people every year. Plants grown for these essential needs start with soil. Livestock that provide food for people eat plants grown in soil. Soil is a natural resource that we all need to care for.


  1. Have two student assistants join the leader in the front of the class.
  2. Have each student don an apron and chef’s hat, if available.
  3. Tell assistants they are going to be making soil. Ask for input from all students on what would be necessary to ‘make’ soil.
  4. Leader starts handing contents of first bag (leaves, twigs, etc.) to one assistant to put in the bowl as he/she tells the class what each item is. Second assistant begins ‘stirring’ ingredients.
  5. Once all items are in bowl, ask if these are all the ingredients necessary to make soil. Answers should be no. Brainstorm what else might be needed.
  6. Remove items one at a time from second bag and hand to assistant to throw into bowl. When removing the water bottle and solar light explain that water and sun are needed to break down rocks and organic materials. The vitamin bottle and worms represents nutrients needed in soil.
  7. Ask if we NOW have everything we need to make soil. Students will respond that we do. Tell them there’s one thing missing and open the third bag, pulling out the timer. Tell students it takes thousands of years to make one INCH of top soil.
  8. Take aprons back but let students keep paper chef’s hats since they should not be re-used.
  9. Students can return to their desks.

Did you know? (Ag facts)

  • Farmers use conservation practices like terracing and no-tilling to keep soil from eroding.
  • Farmers rotate crops when possible to put more nutrients back into the soil. Corn removes nutrients; soybeans replace nutrients.
  • Farmers keep bugs and weeds under control to maximize yield.


Original activity from North Central Iowa Ag in the Classroom.


Brenda Adam

Organization Affiliation

North Central Iowa Ag in the Classroom -

Iowa Core Standards:

  • Science
    • 5-PS1-3. Make observations and measurements to identify materials based on their properties.
    • 5-PS3-1. Use models to describe that energy in animals’ food (used for body repair, growth, motion, and to maintain body warmth) was once energy from the sun.
    • 5-LS1-1. Support an argument that plants get the materials they need for growth chiefly from air and water.
    • 5-LS2-1. Develop a model to describe the movement of matter among plants, animals, decomposers, and the environment.
    • 5-ESS2-1. Develop a model using an example to describe ways the geosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, and/or atmosphere interact.
    • 5-ESS3-1. Obtain and combine information about ways individual communities use science ideas to protect the Earth’s resources and environment.

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