Teach the Earth > Introductory Courses > Activities > Soil description & analysis

Soil description & analysis

Karen Koy
Missouri Western State University
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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.

This page first made public: Apr 12, 2010


The students pull soil cores in a transect across a hill. They describe the horizons and create a fence diagram, then determine the maturity of the soil & relate it to the climate & geologic history of the area.

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Undergraduate service course (non-majors gen ed), physical geology

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

The soil profile, factors controlling soil formation.

How the activity is situated in the course

A single lab exercise, fits into a two-hour lab period.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

  • Formation of a soil catena
  • Climate, weathering & soil development

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

  • Translating data into a fence diagram
  • Synthesis of material from separate course lectures with focused real world observations

Other skills goals for this activity

  • Presenting data in a spreadsheet, visually as a figure and as a written description
  • Working in groups

Description of the activity/assignment

Students will have been through lectures on weathering & erosion, sediments and soils. Students go to the field and pull soil cores across a hill. They describe & measure the horizons, determine soil texture and structure. Using the data, they create a fence diagram and verbally describe what they see. Then they relate the changes in the soil profile downhill to climate, weathering, and the local geology. Students get to learn how to express information in multiple ways & make connections between "different" lecture topics, creating a continuity in the class.

Determining whether students have met the goals

If the verbal description & fence diagram match their data & what would be expected. Does the evaluation of soil maturity reflect what they have learned in class.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

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