What Is Below Your Feet?

4th Grade Lesson: What is Below Your Feet?

Content:

  • This lesson engages 4th grade students with decomposition and soil formation. The students will investigate decomposition of a variety of materials within mini-landfills created in class.
  • Students will focus on changes which occur in organic and inorganic materials over time as these materials are exposed to landfill conditions including soil and naturally occurring soil microbes. Students will chart the rate of decomposition over time.

Time Requirement:

  • Plan to engage students with this lesson for approximately 5 to 6 weeks. This investigation can be conducted concurrently with an ecology unit to provide students with greater insight into soil formation.

Data Collection:

  • Students will mass organic and inorganic materials to be placed in the mini-landfill prior to landfill construction.
  • Students will make regular observations of the landfill materials.
  • At the close of the investigation, students will determine changes in the mass of landfill materials.

Complete lesson plan

5th Grade Lesson: The Water Below Your Feet

Content:

  • This lesson engages 5th grade students in an exploration of the role of water in decomposition. The activities and investigation builds upon prior knowledge of decomposition and soil (concepts emphasized in the 4th grade lesson) by considering the role of water infiltration in the process of decomposition.

Time Requirement:

  • Plan to engage students with this lesson for approximately 5 to 6 weeks.
  • This lesson engages students with a long-term experiment that builds upon the experiment conducted during fourth grade by including the water cycle and decomposition. This investigation will challenge students to apply their knowledge of the water cycle and decomposition to explain the role of water in decomposition and soil formation.

Data Collection:

  • Students monitor their Earthscapes and keep the soil/sand moist all the way to the bottom of the cup throughout this experiment (once a week). Students will make similar observations of dry earthscapes.
  • Students will construct a data table in their science journal to illustrate changes in the dry and moist earthscapes. Diagrams or drawings of the earthscapes will serve as data illustrating changes over time.

Complete lesson plan