Teach the Earth > Introductory Courses > Activities > Soil Properties

Soil Properties

Carrie Davis Todd
Worcester State College
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  1. This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Reviewed Teaching Collection

    This activity has received positive reviews in a peer review process involving five review categories. The five categories included in the process are

    • Scientific Accuracy
    • Alignment of Learning Goals, Activities, and Assessments
    • Pedagogic Effectiveness
    • Robustness (usability and dependability of all components)
    • Completeness of the ActivitySheet web page

    For more information about the peer review process itself, please see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.

  2. This activity has benefited from input from faculty educators beyond the author through a review and suggestion process. This review took place as a part of a faculty professional development workshop where groups of faculty reviewed each others' activities and offered feedback and ideas for improvements. To learn more about the process On the Cutting Edge uses for activity review, see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.

This page first made public: May 15, 2008


In this activity, students determine soil texture and color using a "texture-by-feel" analysis and Munsell color charts. In addition to these basic tests, students also devise their own soil "classification" schemes and make comparisons among local soil samples.

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Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

This activity provides an introduction to basic soil properties and as such does not assume students to have much prior knowledge or skills related to soils; students usually have some familiarity with the material from course readings.

How the activity is situated in the course

This activity is a stand-alone activity that takes one class period, although extension activities could be added to further the concepts introduced.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Students will understand soil texture and how to determine soil texture in the field, as well as understanding how soil color is determined.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Students will devise a grouping system for the range of soils presented, re-evaluate the strengths/weaknesses of their soil groups, and compare soil properties among local soil samples.

Other skills goals for this activity

Description of the activity/assignment

In order to introduce soil properties, students will determine the texture and color of a variety of local soils brought in by their classmates. Each student will describe their soil to the class, indicating where the soil came from and any interesting features regarding the site. Students will group the soils based on this little bit of knowledge and then re-evaluate their groupings after texture and color have been determined. This activity concludes with a discussion of regional soils and variations in soils.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Students will be graded on the completion of the in-class part of the activity, as well as a take-home assignment on soil texture.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

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