Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix
Search Lesson Plans & Companion Resources
Keeping Soil in Its Place
3 - 5
Students will be able to demonstrate rain drop splash (splash erosion) and determine its impact on bare soil, ultimately being able to visually identify types of erosion.
- Splash Zone Target (these could be made on a transparency, this way they could be washed and used year after year)
- Graph handout
- Soils on the Move, for handout or display
- 5 teaspoons of dry soil
- Eyedroppers or dropper bottles
- Erosion Control Practices, for handout or display
Essential Files (maps, charts, pictures, or documents)
mulch: a covering placed on bare soil to keep it from eroding; loose leaves, straw, bark chips, etc
erosion: process of the gradual destruction or diminution of something; eroding or being eroded by wind, water, or other natural agents
furrows: small ditches, usually 2-6 inches deep, between the rows of plants used to convey water
row crops: plants grown in a row to facilitate harvesting and watering
Did you know? (Ag Facts)
- Soil creep is the extremely slow movement of soil down a steep hillside. It is caused by soil expanding and contracting, when it goes from wet to dry or frozen to unfrozen.
- A slump is a mass movement that happens when a large section of soil or soft rock breaks away from a slope and slides downwards. Slumps often happen where the base of a slope is eroded by a river or by waves, or when soil or soft rock becomes waterlogged.
- A lahar is a mudflow of water mixed with volcanic ash. The mud flows down river valleys and sets hard when it comes to a stop. Lahars can cause destruction on a massive scale.
Background Agricultural Connections
Interest Approach – Engagement
- Show your students pictures of famous landmarks that were created by erosion. Examples include the Grand Canyon, Zions National Park, or Arches National Park.
- Ask your students how these unique rock and land formations were created. Allow students to offer their answers and use guided questions to lead them to the answer of erosion.
- Explain that they will be learning about different types of erosion and methods farmers use to prevent erosion of their soil.
Activity 1: Splash Zone
- Divide the class into five groups.
- Give each group a Splash Zone Target, eyedropper, and a small container of water.
- Instruct student to put enough soil (about ½ teaspoon of dry soil) in the center of their target to just cover the center circle.
- Fill the eyedropper with water.
- Hold the eyedropper about 18 inches (or 46 cm) above the soil sample.
- Drop 5 drops of water directly onto the soil sample. If a drop misses the soil, continue until 5 drops hit the soil.
- Record the number of water “splashes”—drops containing soil—in each zone.
- Complete the graph to show your results.
- Discuss the following questions:
- What did you observe? How did the soil particles move from the center of the target? (they were picked up and moved with the water)
- Which zone contained the most number of water drops with soil particles? Why?
- Which zone contained the least number? Why?
- What would happen if the drops were larger? (splashes would travel further)
- How might you prevent splash erosion? (plant vegetation, cover the soil with mulch)
- How do farmers decide which erosion control methods to use? (it depends on the slope, soil types, and what he or she wants to plant)
- Note: You may want to repeat this activity with drops from 1 meter high or try the activity with wet soil.
Activity 2: Soils on the Move
- Introduce students to the types of erosion using the erosion section in the Dirt: Secrets in the Soil video and the information found in the Background Agricultural Connections section of the lesson. (Play the first 3:44 of the video clip. The remaining portion will be used in the next activity.)
- Project or provide each student with a copy of the Soils on the Move handout. Label the handout together and discuss how each type of erosion differs.
Activity 3: Methods for Controlling Soil Erosion
- Introduce students to the methods for controlling erosion. Watch the remaining portion of the video, Dirt: Secrets in the Soil from Activity 2. This section discusses the methods that farmers use to protect soil and prevent erosion. You may choose to duplicate the video demonstration using erosion trays called “turkey pans.” You may also want to show students a movie of raindrops hitting soil, which can easily be found on YouTube.
- Student should complete the Erosion Control Practices activity sheet, or project the graphic and label and discuss the practices together.
- Discuss the various methods and why each practice is used.
Answers: 1) streambank erosion, 2) gully erosion, 3) wind erosion, 4) rill erosion, 5) sheet erosion.
Concept Elaboration and Evaluation
After conducting these activities, review and summarize the following key concepts:
- Soil is a valuable resource that needs to be conserved to allow farmers to grow our food.
- Erosion is a process that moves soil from one place to another using water or wind.
- Farmers use various methods such as furrows, row crops, terraces, and cover crops to prevent erosion of soil on their farms.
We welcome your feedback! Please take a minute to tell us how to make this lesson better or to give us a few gold stars!
Connect this lesson to Utah Studies by showing students the 14-minute video Dust Bowl: Grantsville Utah. This short documentary includes interviews from Utah residents who experienced the Grantsville Dust Bowl in the 1930s. Yes, Utah did experience its own dust bowl, but the cause was overgrazing rather than the turn of the plow.
Suggested Companion Resources
- A Handful of Dirt (Book)
- Children of the Dust Bowl: The True Story of the School at Weedpatch Camp (Book)
- Dirt: The Scoop on Soil (Book)
- Mountains of Jokes About Rocks, Minerals, and Soil (Book)
- Out of the Dust (Book)
- Rocks and Soil (Book)
- Sand and Soil: Earth's Building Blocks (Book)
- Soil! Get the Inside Scoop (Book)
- The Journal of C.J. Jackson, a Dust Bowl Migrant (Book)
- You Wouldn't Want to Live Without Dirt! (Book)
- Soil Samples (Soil Texture) (Kit)
- Dirt: Secrets in the Soil (DVD) (Multimedia)
- Dust Bowl: CBS 1955 Documentary (Multimedia)
- Dust Bowl: Grantsville, Utah (Multimedia)
- Soil Science Videos (Multimedia)
- Third-Grader Explains Nature's Role in Providing Clean Water (Multimedia)
- From the Ground Up: The Science of Soil (Website)
- Rocks and Soils (UEN Sci-ber Text for 4th Grade) (Website)
- Soil Center (Website)
- Soil Science Society of America (Website)
- The USGS Water Science School (Website)
- Water Cycle (UEN Sci-Ber Text for 4th Grade) (Website)
State Standards for Utah
Grade 4: Science Standard 3Students will understand the basic properties of rocks, the processes involved in the formation of soils, and the needs of plants provided by soil.
Objective 2Explain how the processes of weathering and erosion change and move materials that become soil. Meeting one or more of the following indicators: a) Identify the processes of physical weathering that break down rocks at Earth's surface (i.e., water movement, freezing, plant growth, wind). b) Distinguish between weathering (i.e., wearing down and breaking of rock surfaces) and erosion (i.e., the movement of materials). c) Model erosion of Earth materials and collection of these materials as part of the process that leads to soil (e.g., water moving sand in a playground area and depositing this sand in another area). d) Investigate layers of soil in the local area and predict the sources of the sand and rocks in the soil.
Objective 3Observe the basic components of soil and relate the components to plant growth. Meeting one or more of the following indicators: a) Observe and list the components of soil (i.e., minerals, rocks, air, water, living and dead organisms) and distinguish between the living, nonliving, and once living components of soil. b) Diagram or model a soil profile showing topsoil, subsoil, and bedrock, and how the layers differ in composition. c) Relate the components of soils to the growth of plants in soil (e.g., mineral nutrients, water). d) Explain how plants may help control the erosion of soil. e) Research and investigate ways to provide mineral nutrients for plants to grow without soil (e.g., grow plants in wet towels, grow plants in wet gravel, grow plants in water).
Agricultural Literacy Outcomes
Plants and Animals for Food, Fiber & Energy
- Distinguish between renewable and non-renewable resources used in the production of food, feed, fuel, fiber and shelter (T2.3-5.b)
- Understand the concept of land stewardship and identify ways farmers care for land, plants, and animals (T2.3-5.e)
Agriculture and the Environment
- Explain how the interaction of the sun, soil, water, and weather in plant and animal growth impacts agricultural production (T1.3-5.b)
- Identify land and water conservation methods used in farming systems (wind barriers, conservation tillage, laser leveling, GPS planting, etc.) (T1.3-5.c)
- Recognize the natural resources used in agricultural practices to produce food, feed, clothing, landscaping plants, and fuel (e.g., soil, water, air, plants, animals, and minerals) (T1.3-5.e)
Common Core Connections
Reading: Anchor Standards
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.4Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.
Speaking and Listening: Anchor Standards
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.2Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
NCSS 3: People, Places, and Environments
Objective 5Physical changes in community, state, and region, such as seasons, climate, and weather, and their effects on plants and animals.
Objective 7Benefits and problems resulting from the discovery and use of resources.
3-ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
3-ESS3-1Make a claim about the merit of a design solution that reduces the impacts of a weather-related hazard.
4-ESS2: Earth's Systems
4-ESS2-1Make observations and/or measurements to provide evidence of the effects of weathering or the rate of erosion by water, ice, wind, or vegetation.