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These materials are part of a collection of classroom-tested modules and courses developed by InTeGrate. The materials engage students in understanding the earth system as it intertwines with key societal issues. The materials are free and ready to be adapted by undergraduate educators across a range of courses including: general education or majors courses in Earth-focused disciplines such as geoscience or environmental science, social science, engineering, and other sciences, as well as courses for interdisciplinary programs.
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Unit 4: Soils, Systems and Society Kit Presentation

These materials have been reviewed for their alignment with the Next Generation Science Standards as detailed below. Visit InTeGrate and the NGSS to learn more.


One strength of this entire module is that the teacher can make it place-based, using local societal issues and local soils. Also, although soils aren't explicitely mentioned in the NGSS, they are a natural resource and an important component of the surface Earth system, or critical zone, and soil itself is a system of interacting components. In this unit, students construct a soils and societal issue kit within the framework of the NGSS. The process primarily includes the Science and Engineering Practices of defining the question for the kit and designing the activities or investigations .

Science and Engineering Practices

Planning and Carrying Out Investigations: Plan an investigation individually and collaboratively, and in the design: identify independent and dependent variables and controls, what tools are needed to do the gathering, how measurements will be recorded, and how many data are needed to support a claim. MS-P3.1:

Developing and Using Models: Develop and/or use a model to predict and/or describe phenomena. MS-P2.5:

Analyzing and Interpreting Data: Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for phenomena. MS-P4.4:

Developing and Using Models: Develop, revise, and/or use a model based on evidence to illustrate and/or predict the relationships between systems or between components of a system HS-P2.3:

Asking Questions and Defining Problems: Ask questions that can be investigated within the scope of the school laboratory, research facilities, or field (e.g., outdoor environment) with available resources and, when appropriate, frame a hypothesis based on a model or theory. HS-P1.6:

Cross Cutting Concepts

Systems and System Models: Systems may interact with other systems; they may have sub-systems and be a part of larger complex systems. MS-C4.1:

Structure and Function: Investigating or designing new systems or structures requires a detailed examination of the properties of different materials, the structures of different components, and connections of components to reveal its function and/or solve a problem. HS-C6.1:

Cause and effect: Cause and effect relationships can be suggested and predicted for complex natural and human designed systems by examining what is known about smaller scale mechanisms within the system. HS-C2.2:

Disciplinary Core Ideas

The Roles of Water in Earth's Surface Processes: Water’s movements—both on the land and underground—cause weathering and erosion, which change the land’s surface features and create underground formations. MS-ESS2.C5:

Earth’s Materials and Systems: All Earth processes are the result of energy flowing and matter cycling within and among the planet’s systems. This energy is derived from the sun and Earth’s hot interior. The energy that flows and matter that cycles produce chemical and physical changes in Earth’s materials and living organisms. MS-ESS2.A1:

The Roles of Water in Earth's Surface Processes: The abundance of liquid water on Earth’s surface and its unique combination of physical and chemical properties are central to the planet’s dynamics. These properties include water’s exceptional capacity to absorb, store, and release large amounts of energy, transmit sunlight, expand upon freezing, dissolve and transport materials, and lower the viscosities and melting points of rocks. HS-ESS2.C1:

Human Impacts on Earth Systems: The sustainability of human societies and the biodiversity that supports them requires responsible management of natural resources. HS-ESS3.C1:

Performance Expectations

Earth and Human Activity: Construct an explanation based on evidence for how the availability of natural resources, occurrence of natural hazards, and changes in climate have influenced human activity. HS-ESS3-1:

  1. This material was developed and reviewed through the InTeGrate curricular materials development process. This rigorous, structured process includes:

    • team-based development to ensure materials are appropriate across multiple educational settings.
    • multiple iterative reviews and feedback cycles through the course of material development with input to the authoring team from both project editors and an external assessment team.
    • real in-class testing of materials in at least 3 institutions with external review of student assessment data.
    • multiple reviews to ensure the materials meet the InTeGrate materials rubric which codifies best practices in curricular development, student assessment and pedagogic techniques.
    • review by external experts for accuracy of the science content.

  2. 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

This page first made public: Jan 18, 2016


In this unit, students construct and present a standards-based, K–8 Soils, Systems, and Society Kit that consists of lessons and supporting materials around a locally and broadly relevant societal issue that involves soils. After learning about the Kit assignment and choosing their societal issue, students have at least two weeks outside of classwork time to develop a kit that integrates soils content with interdisciplinary systems taught through scientific practices. After completing their Kits, students present them to the class for review and final summative assessments.

Learning Goals

By the end of this unit, students will:
  • Construct a standards-based, K–8 Soils, Systems, and Society Kit consisting of lessons and supporting materials, which teaches about a locally and broadly relevant societal issue in the context of soils
  • Effectively present their Kit to their peers

Context for Use

This unit is designed for elementary education pre-service teachers (students) in an undergraduate level science teaching methods course.

The unit begins with detailed discussion of the Soils, Systems, and Society Kit assignment. This assignment should be given to students early in the course, during Unit 1. Students should have a minimum of two weeks to consider and construct their Kit following Unit 3. Most of the research and Kit development should be completed outside of class, although periodic checkpoints and in-class discussion of Kit progress will facilitate student success (see suggested timeline below in Teaching Notes and Tips). After completing their Kits, students present their work to the class using a gallery walk (read more about teaching with gallery walks). During presentations, students review each other's work and the instructor completes the final assessments.

Any equipment needed by the student for his or her Kit is from the student's resources or obtained on loan from the instructor.

Prior to this activity, students should have examined patterns in map data (Unit 2) and soil testing methods (Unit 3) and been introduced to basic soil science content, resources, and practices. In addition, they should have previously brainstormed relevant soil societal issues (Unit 1) that could be used to focus their Kits. Additional context for science methods courses (such as using science journals) is described when you click on "Show pedagogic choices" under the "making the module work" section on the overview of the module and throughout the units.

Importantly, this activity does not include detailed description of how to write lesson plans. Although lesson plans are a requirement of the Kit, teaching how to write and develop lessons is outside the scope of this unit. Students should know how to write standards-aligned, K–8 lessons prior to Unit 4–this knowledge may come from previous education courses or within the elementary science methods course.

Description and Teaching Materials

Preparation Prior To Class

  • If possible, bring a model Kit to share with the class when you initially introduce the assignment.
  • For underclassmen or inexperienced students, it may be useful to provide a list of online resources or materials ideas for students.

Kit Assignment

Review the Soils, Systems, and Society Kit Assignment (Microsoft Word 23kB Jan7 16) with the class (it should have been handed out in Unit 1). If students have not done so already, they should choose one societal issue to focus on for their Kits.

Outside of Class Work On Kit (Time varies, at least 3 weeks)

The Soils, Systems, and Society Kit is an out-of-class assignment. Students should be allotted at least 2 weeks to complete their Kits, but more time gives them the opportunity to create a better product. It is important to help students stay focused as they work independently. A suggested timeline is included in the Teaching Notes and Tips section below. In addition, make time for appointments with each individual or group at the halfway point (e.g., at 2 weeks in a 4-week work time) to answer questions, troubleshoot, and make sure that students are on track.

Kit Presentation (Time varies, 2–3 hours for a gallery walk)

After students have had time to complete their Kits, the instructor should schedule time for them to present their work to their peers. Options include students presenting their work in a gallery style presentation or teaching it during an in-class field practicum (see "Show pedagogic choices" under the Adapting the Module to Different Courses section in the module overview). Depending on the size of your class, you can have students set up posters around the room or at table groups. The students' presentations are evaluated by the instructor using the Kit rubric (Microsoft Word 23kB Jan7 16) and Gallery Walk Checklist (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 19kB Jun15 15).

The time needed to complete this part of the activity varies depending on the number of students in the course, if students work on the Kit individually or in groups, and whether you require the students to facilitate lesson(s) from their Kits as part of their presentation.

Reserve time after the gallery walk to reflect as a class. It would also be beneficial for students to write a final reflection on the Kit project in their science journals. Some guiding questions for discussion or reflection include:

  1. In what ways did the different Kits include systems thinking?
  2. How did the Kits include interdisciplinary perspectives?
  3. In what ways were scientific practices incorporated into the Kits?
  4. How was data included in the Kit lessons?
  5. (Metacognitive) What was the value of the Kit exercise to your future as an elementary teacher? What did you learn from the assignment? What would you change?

Teaching Notes and Tips

Suggested facilitation timeline: It may be appropriate in some courses, such as graduate or senior-level courses, for students to work on their Kits entirely at their own pace with minimal week-to-week guidance. In other courses, students may benefit from structured requirements due each week that they work on their Kits. The following timeline suggests weekly requirements for a four-week Kit development time period. At least 30 min in class per week would be devoted to Kit work time.

  • Week 1 — Draft concept map and potential standards
Students share their concept maps and standards in small groups. Students should suggest additions to concept maps and work through each chosen standard to identify relevant practices, content, and crosscutting concepts (if using NGSS), then brainstorm relevant data and interdisciplinary connections. Instructors should check that each student has chosen a systems standard, review concept maps for errors and omissions, and assist students with brainstorming.
  • Week 2 — Data, potential resources and activities, and draft learning objectives
Students work in small groups to share data and peer-assess alignment of the societal issue—standards—learning objectives—potential data and activities. Instructors should check for alignment and assist students with ideas.
  • Week 3 — Draft concept map and Kit outline
In-class work time on Kits. Students can share challenges and troubleshoot them with the class. Instructor should check concept maps for errors and omissions and Kit outline for interdisciplinary integration, systems thinking, data, and practices. Specifically look for evidence that lessons explicitly require K–8 students to use and articulate systems thinking and scientific practices and discuss strategies for this as a class.
  • Week 4 — Presentations



  • Weekly in-class discussions about Kit progress or outside-of-class instructor meetings


We have provided several assessments for evaluating the Kits and the entire module experience. Together these assessments address the kit and unit overview, lessons and supporting materials within the kit, the kit presentation, and the overall module goals.

  • Soils, Systems and Society Kit Rubric (Microsoft Word 23kB Jan7 16) — This rubric addresses specific kit and unit overview requirements within the Kit. General lesson requirements (e.g., alignment of objectives and standards) should be assessed at the level of the lesson using an instructor-provided lesson plan rubric (see next).
  • Example Lesson Plan Rubric 1 (Acrobat (PDF) 44kB Feb7 14) and Example Lesson Plan Rubric 2 (Acrobat (PDF) 158kB Oct16 13)— Two example lesson plan rubrics. Example Lesson Plan Rubric 2 was developed to assess this edTPA-aligned lesson plan format: Example Lesson Plan Template (Acrobat (PDF) 147kB Oct15 13).
  • Gallery Walk Checklist (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 19kB Jun15 15) — A checklist developed for assessing the Kit presentations in a gallery walk.

References and Resources

The Dig In! books from the National Science Teachers Association are an excellent resource for soil investigations.

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These materials are part of a collection of classroom-tested modules and courses developed by InTeGrate. The materials engage students in understanding the earth system as it intertwines with key societal issues. The collection is freely available and ready to be adapted by undergraduate educators across a range of courses including: general education or majors courses in Earth-focused disciplines such as geoscience or environmental science, social science, engineering, and other sciences, as well as courses for interdisciplinary programs.
Explore the Collection »