Which Soil Holds More Water

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SWBAT predict and measure how much water different soil can hold.

Big Idea

Sort, analyze and compare a variety of soil types.

Setting the Stage

National Science Teaching Standards

Earth Science

Types of resources

Resources are things that we get from living and nonliving sources to meet our needs such as: rocks, soils, water, and air.  This lesson focuses on students learning about which soil holds the most water.  This lesson helps students understand that soil can function in different ways depending on how it is prepared. This lesson helps students to make a real world connection because they learn how to make the appropriate recommendations concerning soil. Also, this lesson helps to support 2nd grade Tennessee Standards.

Science and Engineering Practice: 

SP 1 addresses asking questions.  In 2nd grade, it is important that students ask questions about their investigation, so they can understand why and how things occur. In this lesson, students learn how to ask questions about soil. They can question why and how different soils hold various amounts of water. The students create questions using the teacher created science question stems.

SP 8 addresses obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information in K–2. Students communicate information with others in oral and written forms to discuss scientific ideas.  In this lesson, students communicate within their group the questions and predictions they generate. Then, groups communicate with each other about their findings which detail the soil that holds the most water. It is important that students learn how to have a healthy debate about various issues. This helps to develop verbal communication skills.

Prior Knowledge:

Students understand Earth resources. They know that Earth's resources are air, water, plants, animals, soil, and rocks. Junior Scientists recognize that air, water, soil, and rocks are non-living resources that come directly from the Earth. Students know that plants can grow in soil which provides the plant with nutrients needed to survive.

Junior Scientists:

In my class, my students are called Junior Scientists. They wear lab jackets, created early in the school year, during their experiments. I call them scientists to encourage them to major in science and math related fields of study which will perhaps lead them to scientific and mathematics careers. I want them to discover a love for science and math. Also, we sing "It is Science Time" before each lesson. 


Some students may think that sandy soil holds the most water because they know that sandy soil can be found in deserts and plants in the desert do not need that much water. I will make sure that students understand that sandy soil is not as tough as clay soil and clay soil is great for building a foundation for homes.





10 minutes

At their desks, students sing a song at the beginning of each science lesson.  This song motivates, engages and empowers my Junior Scientists to do their best. During science lessons, I call my students scientists to them to become dreamers and doers.

Do Now Work

Students complete Do Now Work. Soil is a natural resource that helps animals and plants. Write some examples of how soil can be used. Is soil a renewable or nonrenewable resource? Explain.  Do Now Work helps students to maintain taught skills while demonstrating learning. Also, it permits me to check for student understanding.

“I can” statement

I call on a student to read our "I Can" statement for the day. While using an over-sized microphone, a scientist says, "I can observe and explain which soil holds the most water: sandy or clay soil." The "I Can" statement helps students take ownership of the lesson as they put standards into context. The other students praise the student that reads the "I Can" statement by clapping.  I encourage students to give each other praise to boost their self-esteem. Students are reminded of the safety rules, group rules, and scientific method. Also, I discuss the checklist to assist with completing and staying on task during the assignment. I remind the students to make sure that they stay on task. Also, it is important that they understand that scientists must follow safety rules in order to stay out of danger.

Stand and Deliver

When I ask students questions in the Stand and Deliver portion, each student must stand and deliver their response. Students are asked: How is soil formed? Which soil holds more water?  We also discuss the Do Now Work. Students are encouraged to go to the text to cite evidence about the presented questions. I use Cold Call and No-Opt Out with my students to assist with understanding the content.

Model for the Students

I model how the students should complete the investigation using topsoil. I show them how to punch holes in the cup, measure the soil, and the water. I model the steps to the students to eliminate any student not being on task or confusion concerning how to follow the steps on the lab sheet and/or checklist. Also, it helps students to achieve optimal learning. They are familiar with science investigations, and they tend to be excited.  



30 minutes

My students proceed to their group tables when I say "We are on the Move" and they stand and sing, We are on the Move. This routine helps my students to move to their table with very little distraction. This also helps my auditory learners who enjoy singing as well as my kinesthetic children who enjoy moving.  

While students are at their group's table, I ask them to observe clay soil and sandy soil. The students observe the soil in order to compare and contrast the two different types of soil. In doing this, students are thinking critically about the soils while using the science process skill, observation. Students are also encouraged to record their observations on the chart. The chart helps students to organize their information which assists them in explaining their scientific findings.

Here is the process that I lead with the students..... 

When students get to their tables, they begin to assign their roles: a person to lead, record, measure, and report. I assign the leader which is one of my advanced students. Leadership qualities are present. They put on their group labels with a clothes pin to ensure that I know each child's role.  Students are grouped by abilities to support their learning. I want all my students to take ownership of their learning, so assigning roles permits students to develop confidence in their roles as well as use their strengths to accomplish their group's goals.  All hands must be on deck.  The groups are reminded of the group rules. The group rules are located at their table so they can reference them.

Students collaborate in groups to discover which soil holds more water. The groups are instructed to use the lab sheet to guide their investigation. Students should first observe and ask questions about the items at their table: two kinds of soil, water, measuring cups, and timer. Then, they make a prediction about the investigation, "Which soil holds the most water?" Next, they use a pencil to poke three small holes in the bottom of each cup. They label the cup A and B.  Place one type of soil in each labeled cup: sandy soil and clay-rich soil. You are to fill cup A and B with 250 ml of soil. They should use their measuring cup for accuracy. For example, if they fill cup A with 250 ml of sandy soil, the group members should fill Cup B with 250 ml cup of clay soil.  After groups measure the soil for each cup, they hold each cup of soil over a measuring cup and have another group member pour 250 ml of water in each cup, and wait 5 minutes to observe how much water dripped in the measuring cup.

While the students are working, I maintain notes on my running record chart. Also, I walk around to facilitate student learning. I offer help as needed and I pose the following questions: Which soil holds the most water? Explain. How are the two soils alike and how are they different? How does the soil react when it comes in contact with water?

I inform the groups that they have 15 minutes to complete the investigation, but I knew they would need 5 to 10 more minutes. When the students feel that they have a long time they do not work as efficiently with time, but as you will notice on the video how the pace picks up when they feel they may run out of time. I walk around to make sure that students are on task to ensure their success. I utilize a timer to keep a steady pulse.

Which Soil Hold the Most Water-Student Work




10 minutes

While students sit at their group tables, they are invited to share their scientific findings. As groups present, I am listening for group understandings or misconceptions about the two soils. Also, I am listening to make sure that groups understand that clay soil holds more water than the other soil, sandy. Teacher note: Clay soil is a thick soil that is great for building homes. Water does not easily absorb in this kind of soil, and this soil can be muddy. Sandy soil is great for fixing holes and it filters water well. Top soil covers 1-2 inches of the Earth. It is great for growing plants due to the nutrients from the soil.

Students will complete an exit ticket. The exit tickets are based on learning levels.

Students complete the "Scientist Ticket Out The Door". My on-level and below-level students are asked which soil is best for planting a vegetable garden and my advanced students are asked to make a recommendation on which soil that they should use in a climate where it would rain a lot. They should explain their answers. These are advancing questions, so students can demonstrate their scientific understanding. The students should state that the topsoil is best for planting because it retains more water which is best for plants. Also, it contains nutrients that plants need in order to grow. The advanced students should recommend clay soil because it holds the most water. The water did not absorb in the water like the sandy soil. Students should understand that scientists complete investigations to discover scientific findings so they can communicate to others.