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Go Ahead and Get Dirty With Your Own Soil Study

Spring smells of soil. New life is popping out of the ground. It’s the season to start planting your garden. It’s the perfect time to dig into the soil!

Photo by Sara Russell

Soil is special. It’s not just dirt. There’s dirt on Mercury, but still no life. Soil includes dirt, broken down rocks, minerals and shells. But what makes soil alive are all the organisms that live in it. There are more living organisms in a handful of soil than there are people on Earth!

Soil is about 45% minerals, 25% water, 25% air and 5% organic matter. The minerals include sand, dirt, pebbles, rocks, minerals and shells. The water is not just good, old-fashioned H20, but also all the minerals dissolved in it. The organic matter in soil includes bacteria, fungi, algae, protozoa, springtails, mites, earthworms, ants, burrowing rodents, broken roots, wood, plants and so much more.

Start Your Study!

Here’s what you will need to do your own soil study:

  • Hand shovel, metal spoon or stick

  • Magnifying glass

  • Hand microscope if you have one

  • Paper to put soil on

  • Containers for sorting

  • Notebook and pencil


1. Find a spot where no one will mind if you dig a small hole.

2. Dig your hole!

3. Place your soil on the paper. What do you see?

4. Record what you see in the soil.

This is your soil study, so you can do it how you want. Do you want to sort all the materials and record how much you found of each? Are you more interested in putting your magnifying glass to the test and investigating all the details? Do you want to draw what you see?

Try looking at soil from different areas. Is the soil from a forested area the same as soil from near a pond?

Make it your own soil study, and have fun!


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