Know Soil, Know Life Educator's Guide

Why teach about soil and soil science?

Beneath our feet and all around us is a vitally important material Soil.

Soils sustain life, without soil, there would be no life. At first glance, students may not realize how complex, fascinating, and important soils are to their worlds. Soil is the reservoir on which most life on earth depends, as the primary source of food, feed, fuel, forage, fiber, and pharmaceuticals.

Soil plays a vital role in sustaining human welfare and assuring future agricultural productivity and environmental stability. The study of soil as a science has provided us with a basic understanding of the physical, chemical, and biological properties and processes essential to such a complex ecosystem. Studying the soil illuminates the diverse and complex life both underfoot and all around us.


The Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) K-12 committee and a group of dedicated soil scientists wrote the Know Soil, Know Life book for the high school and introductory college-level student.

know-soil.jpg KSKL book cover
The book provides a deeper dive into soil science topics including physical properties of soil, soil formation, soil biology, chemical properties of soil, soil classification/survey/interpretations, environmental science/conservation/land use management, soils and biomes, soils and society, and careers in soil science. Learn more about the book by clicking on the image (left) or here.


Why use this set of lessons?

This set of lessons, designed to accompany the book Know Soil, Know Life, serve to illustrate and enhance the information provided in the book. The lessons can also be used in a stand-alone fashion. The hands-on labs and activities bring the text to 'life' for students. Soil science is an integrated discipline, bringing in elements of all the other sciences -- chemistry, biology, physics, and earth science. The lessons can be taught in any order, or educators may select only the most pertinent chapters/activities for their classes. All of the activities have been correlated to the current National Science Standards (NGSS).

How to integrate with the Know Soil, Know Life book

Educators may use these lessons in a variety of ways. They can be used either in a classroom setting or as an independent-learning package. The text in the book can be assigned as homework, read in class, or presented by the educator. While not needed to teach the lessons, educators may wish to purchase a desk copy of the book, or a class set. To do so, click the link above.

Before starting this unit

Read through the chapters in the book and the accompanying webpages. Select activities to complete with students. Print out the needed student worksheets and leader guides. Acquire necessary lab materials and supplies. Most of the educator guides have integrated discussion questions. These questions can be used to guide discussions or used in formative assessments. Suggested summative assessments are included for many of the modules.

Additional Resources

Learn more about the project and the book by visiting the About page on this website or the links listed below.

Glossary of terminology for students https://www.soils4teachers.org/glossary
Glossary of terminology for scientists https://www.soils.org/publications/soils-glossary
Latest soil news https://www.soils.org/news/
Soils for teachers website https://www.soils4teachers.org
Know Soil, Know Life book https://www.soils4teachers.org/know-soil-know-life



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