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Healthy Soil - Healthy Plants!

Elementary

Description

This simple lesson plan uses experiential activities to help develop student understanding of soil composition and plant growth.  With an emphasis on conservation, the soil activities provide many opportunities for classroom  discussion of  the impacts of humans on this life-sustaining natural resource.

The four core activities actively enage students in:

  • Describing the requirements for healthy plant growth.
  • Exploring germination and changes in plants.
  • Exploring and describing soil.
  • Identifying soil conservation actions.

General Assessment

What skills does this resource explicitly teach?

  • Brainstorming
  • Observation
  • Predicting
  • Using science tools to manipulate materials
  • Scientific inquiry

Strengths

  • Hands-on activities that encourage exploration and discovery.
  • Strong connections between activities helps facilitate student activation of prior knowledge.
  • Simple approach that requires minimal materials or equipment.
  • Strong outdoor component.

Weaknesses

  • No assessment strategies are included.
  • No action project included.
  • The "Growing Seedlings" activity does not include a student data sheet for recording and measuring information.

Recommendation of how and where to use it

The resource is an excellent fit for grade 3 Science. It would work extremely well as an integrated approach to the study of soils and plant growth.  The initial soil investigation could be expanded by having students explore and compare other soil types from regions surrounding their community.  Samples could also be further analyzed with activities such as testing water absorption rates and examining soil composition through sedimentation.  The seed growing activity uses bean seeds, which if grown to maturity will produce food.  Students could experiment with growing other vegetables and a class could even establish a school vegetable garden to learn about local food.  A member of a local community garden could be invited  to teach the class about organic gardening practices such as composting and natural pest control.

Relevant Curriculum Units

The following tool will allow you to explore the relevant curriculum matches for this resource. To start, select a province listed below.

  • Step 1Select a province
  • Alberta
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 3
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Investigating change and the diversity of Earth’s systems helps us to develop understandings of the conditions necessary to sustain life.
    • Grade 4
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Exploring connections strengthens our understandings of relationships to help us make meaning of the world.
        • Investigating change and the diversity of Earth’s systems helps us to develop understandings of the conditions necessary to sustain life.
  • British Columbia
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 2
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Science 2: Living things have life cycles adapted to their environment
  • Manitoba
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 3
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Growth and Changes in Plants
        • Soils in the Environment
    • Grade 4
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Rocks, Minerals, and Erosion
  • New Brunswick
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 3
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Exploring Soils
        • Plant Growth & Changes
    • Grade 4
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Rocks, Minerals, and Erosion
  • Newfoundland & Labrador
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 3
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Exploring Soils
        • Plant Growth & Changes
    • Grade 4
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Rocks, Minerals & Erosion
  • Northwest Territories
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 3
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Earth & Space Systems: Soils in the Environment
        • Life Systems: Growth and Changes in Plants
    • Grade 4
      • Step 3Select a subject
  • Nova Scotia
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 3
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Science 3: Exploring Soils
        • Science 3: Plant Growth and Changes
    • Grade 4
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Science 4: Rocks and Minerals and Erosion
  • Nunavut
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 2
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Life Science: Growth and Changes in Animals
    • Grade 3
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Earth & Space Systems: Soils in the Environment
        • Life Systems: Growth and Changes in Plants
    • Grade 4
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Earth & Space Systems: Rocks, Minerals & Erosion
  • Ontario
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 3
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science & Technology
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Growth & Changes in Plants
        • Soils in the Environment
  • Prince Edward Island
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 3
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Exploring Soils
        • Plant Growth & Changes
    • Grade 4
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Rocks, Minerals & Erosion
  • Quebec
  • Saskatchewan
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 3
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Exploring Soils
        • Plant Growth and Changes
    • Grade 4
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Rocks, Minerals, and Erosion
  • Yukon Territory
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 2
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Science 2: Living things have life cycles adapted to their environment

Themes Addressed

  • Citizenship (1)

    • Ecological Footprint
  • Ecosystems (2)

    • Appreciating the Natural World
    • Interdependence
  • Food & Agriculture (2)

    • Conventional Farming
    • Organic Farming

Sustainability Education Principles

Principle Rating Explanation
Consideration of Alternative Perspectives Good

An open-ended approach encourages student reflection about the interactions between soils, society and the environment.

Consideration of Alternative Perspectives:
  • Satisfactory: absence of bias towards any one point of view
  • Good: students consider different points of view regarding issues, problems discussed
  • Very good: based on the consideration of different views, students form opinions and  take an informed position
Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions Good

Students actively explore the link between soils and plant growth which deepens their understanding of the social and environmental impacts of soil loss.  Although not specifically addressed in the lessons, the economic impacts of soil degradation can be easily incorporated into the discussion around crops and food production.

Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions:

Effectively addresses the environmental, economic and social dimensions of the issue(s) being explored.

  • Satisfactory: resource supports the examination of  these dimensions
  • Good:  resource explicitly examines the interplay of these dimensions
  • Very Good:  a systems-thinking approach is encouraged to examine these three dimensions
Respects Complexity Good

Exploration with hands-on activities supports evidence-based learning to foster dialogue about an important conservation issue.

Respects Complexity:

The complexity of the problems/issues being discussed is respected.

Acting on Learning Satisfactory

There are no specific action activities in the resource but students will identify ways to offset soil degradation such as composting and maintaining trees.  Thus, a teacher could build upon this discussion by implementing a classroom soil conservation project.

Acting on Learning:

Learning moves from understanding  issues  to working towards positive change — in personal lifestyle, in school, in the community,  or for the planet

  • Satisfactory: action opportunities are included as extensions 
  • Good: action opportunities are core components of the resource
  • Very Good: action opportunities for students are well supported and intended to result in observable, positive change
Values Education Good

Students are able to develop a personal connection to the topic which will result in an enhanced awareness of the importance of soils and plants in their own lives.

Values Education:

Students are explicitly provided with opportunities to identify, clarify and express their own beliefs/values.

Empathy & Respect for Humans Poor/Not considered

Not considered in this resource.

Empathy & Respect for Humans: Empathy and respect are fostered for diverse groups of humans (including different genders, ethnic groups, sexual preferences, etc.).
Personal Affinity with Earth Very Good

All of the activities are designed to be implemented outside.  The soil sampling lesson specifically, engages students in exploring their natural world.  Growing seeds also fosters a connection to nature and deepens student awareness of how Earth provides them with food.

Personal Affinity with Earth:

Encourages a personal affinity with -the natural world.  

  • Satisfactory: connection is made to the natural world
  • Good: fosters appreciation/concern for the natural world
  • Very Good: fosters stewardship though practical and respectful experiences out-of-doors 
Locally-Focused Learning Good

This resource addresses an issue that is common to all regions of Canada.  The activities also provide students with an opportunity to explore and learn about soil types and plant growing conditions in their community.

Locally-Focused Learning:

Includes learning experiences that take advantage of issues/elements within the local community. 

  • Satisfactory: learning is made relevant to the lives of the learners
  • Good: learning is made relevant and has a local focus
  • Very Good: learning is made relevant, local and takes place ‘outside’ , in the community 
Past, Present & Future Satisfactory

Students are asked to consider the impacts of soil erosion on crop production but the resource is limited in scope in terms of identifying how agricultural practices have changed over time.

Past, Present & Future: Promotes an understanding of the past, a sense of the present, and a positive vision for the future.

Pedagogical Approaches

Principle Rating Explanation
Open-Ended Instruction Good

There are many opportunities throughout this resource for students to establish connections with prior learning through inquiry-based activities.

Open-Ended Instruction :

Lessons are structured so that multiple/complex answers are possible; students are not steered toward one 'right' answer.

Integrated Learning Poor/Not considered

This resource has been specifically developed to support  the Pan Canadian science curriculum.  However, the "If the Earth was an Apple" activity addresses  math outcomes related to fractions.

Integrated Learning:

Learning brings together content and skills  from more than one  subject area

  • Satisfactory: content from a number of different  subject areas is readily identifiable
  • Good:  resource is appropriate for use in more than one subject area
  • Very Good:  the lines between subjects are blurred 
Inquiry Learning Good

The activities in this resource encourage interaction with the outdoor environment and engage students in an authentic learning experience that fosters discovery.

Inquiry Learning:

Learning is directed by questions, problems, or challenges that students work to address.   

  • Satisfactory: Students are provided with questions/problems to solve and some direction on how to arrive at solutions.
  • Good: students, assisted by the teacher clarify the question(s) to ask and the process to follow to arrive at solutions.  Sometimes referred to as Guided Inquiry
  • Very Good:  students generate the questions and assume much of the responsibility for how to solve them.  . Sometimes referred to as self-directed learning.

 

Differentiated Instruction Satisfactory

Although there are no specific differentiation strategies identified in this resource the hands-on nature of the activities will appeal to a diverse range of learners.

Differentiated Instruction:

Activities address a range of student learning styles, abilities and readiness.

  • Satisfactory:  includes a variety of instructional approaches
  • Good: addresses  the needs of visual, auditory &  kinesthetic learners
  • Very Good: also includes strategies for learners with difficulties
Experiential Learning Very Good

The soil exploration and seed growing activities engage students in an authentic and meaningful learning experience.

Experiential Learning:

Authentic learning experiences are provided

  • Satisfactory: learning takes place through ‘hands-on’ experience or simulation
  • Good: learning involves direct experience in a ‘real world context’
  • Very good: learning involves ‘real world experiences’ taking place’ beyond the school walls.
Cooperative Learning Poor/Not considered

Students work individually or as a whole class.

Cooperative Learning:

Group and cooperative learning strategies are a priority.

  • Satisfactory:  students work in groups
  • Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught and practiced
  • Very Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught, practiced and assessed
Assessment & Evaluation Poor/Not considered

There are no assessment strategies included with this resource.

Assessment & Evaluation: Tools are provided that help students and teachers to capture formative and summative information about students' learning and performance. These tools may include reflection questions, checklists, rubrics, etc.
Peer Teaching Poor/Not considered

Although peer teaching is not  specifically considered, the "Planting Seedlings" activity  suggests that volunteers are used to help.  Students from older grade levels could be recruited to assist the class which would facilitate some peer-led instruction.

Peer Teaching:

Provides opportunities for students to actively present their knowledge and skills to peers and/or act as teachers and mentors.

  • Satisfactory: incidental teaching that arises from cooperative learning, presentations, etc.
  • Good or Very Good: an opportunity is intentionally created to empower students to teach other students/community members. The audience is somehow reliant on the students' teaching (students are not simply ‘presenting')
Case Studies Good

The soil investigations and plant growing activity ensure that students are exploring the topic of soil conservation on a local level with data and information that is relevant.

Case Studies:

Relevant case studies are included.  Case studies are thorough descriptions of real events from real situations that students use to explore  concepts in an authentic context.

Locus of Control Satisfactory

The activities are primarily teacher led, but students can direct their own learning experience in the outdoor exploration component of the unit.

Locus of Control: Meaningful opportunities are provided for students to choose elements of program content, the medium in which they wish to work, and/or to go deeper into a chosen issue.