Soils for Planting

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SWBAT determine which types of soils work for planting different types of seeds and plants.

Big Idea

Some trees grow in the desert, some flowers grow in the rainforest...but almost all grow in soil. How do gardeners know what kind of soil to use?

Teacher Preparation

In this lesson, students learn about different plants that grow in sand, silt, and clay through a PowerPoint lesson with conversation about the three types of soil. This lesson aligns to Essential Standard 1.E.2.1, Summarize the physical properties of Earth materials, including rocks, minerals, soils and water that make them useful in different ways.  Listen to my Explanation of Essential Standards and Essential Question.

The essential question for today is: 'How do people know what to plant?' The purpose of this question today is to help students to understand that farmers and gardeners must first know what kind of soil they have, and then they use resources like websites, books, observations and records to know what kinds of seeds and vegetables to plant that will grow in their specific region.


*Internet access

*How do I know what to plant PowerPoint or How do I know what to plant - Presentation Slides

*Student journals

Warm Up

5 minutes

To get started with this lesson, we begin on the carpet and I read the essential question for today. I say,

"Today's question is 'How do people know what to plant?' Do you have any answers to that question already?"

I listen to some responses to see what my students think, just as a quick check in to see where we are with this topic before I begin. Then I say,

"We are going to look at some different plants together today and then I will show you a resource that people can use to find out what grows in their yard. First, open your journal and draw three lines across, like mine".

I show my students how to draw a simple chart so that throughout the lesson they have a place to  write down the different plants that grow in the three kinds of soils. Giving them a format for writing down this information keeps my students on task throughout the lesson and also provides a place to record the information for the final activity. This supports Science and Engineering Practice 4, as students record information, including their own thoughts, ideas, and observations and later share them in conversation. Then, I say,

"Now, label each section. The first one will be 'Sand'. The second will be 'Silt'. The third will be 'Clay'. Then, you're ready! We are going to learn about some examples of plants and trees that grow well in each kind of soil."


25 minutes

On my interactive whiteboard, I show the PowerPoint and start with lots of questions to get my students talking about what they already know - or at least think they know! Then, I use the pictures to introduce lots of examples of plants and trees that grow in the different types of soil. On each slide, we discuss the variety of flowers and trees that grow in the soil. My students take notes in their journal and sketch some examples of the page we prepared. Recording information about the different types of soils and plants supports Science and Engineering Practice 4, Analyzing and Interpreting Data.

This activity is designed to give students an understanding that there are specific plants and trees that grow in each type of soil but I also want them to see that there are bright flowers and trees that grow in all three. In other words, I do not want to build a misconception that only cactus grow in sand, but rather that lots of things do and that it is up to farmers, gardeners, and scientists to find out about the soils and the plants and to figure out which types will grow in the different soils!

After we finish the PowerPoint, I show this website and explain how people who plant gardens use resources, like the internet, to find out what types of things grow before they invest in them! We discuss how scientists use resources to be smart and do research, and how gardeners and farmers are really scientists, too!




Wrap Up

10 minutes

To end the lesson, I come back to the essential question and I say,

"So when I get ready to plant my garden in the spring, how can I figure out what to plant?"

I want my students to use their knowledge to articulate that I need to determine the type of soil in my garden and then use resources to find plants that will grow well in that type of soil. Another reasonable conversation would be that I need to change my soil in order to grow the kinds of plants I want to grow! Communicating and sharing ideas, using our journals and information, supports Science and Engineering Practice 8.