Soil Testing and Measurement

3, 4, 5
Students will observe that all soil is not of the correct composition for growing plants desirable for the garden. Garden size and geographic orientation will be determined.
Lesson Rating 
PrintTwo Thirty-Minute Class Periods
The learner will:
  • analyze what is needed to amend the soil composition for the garden.
  • take a soil test of their garden.
  • use several instruments of measurement.
  • Internet access or garden / plant books from library media center
  • Ruler (with centimeters and inches), yardstick & tape measure
Home Connection 
None for this lesson.


  1. Anticipatory Set:Discuss what plants the students see growing now in their garden site. Ask if they think the types of plants they have selected will grow there. How can a person find out what will or will not grow there? How big do they think the garden area is? Have students make estimates of its present size.

  2. Using the Internet, or a book on plants from the library media center or a garden center, find answers to any questions students may still have about whether the plants they have selected will be able to grow in their garden.
  3. Tell students that if their soil is not in the best shape for planting plants and flowers, it does not have to stay that way. Explain that plants, like students, can be tested to determine quality. Have students discuss what a soil test might discover about their soil. (If necessary, read this information out of a gardening book.)
  4. NOTE: Testing the soil can be done with a kit and directions obtained from the local Soil Conservation District Office. Core samplers for boring into the soil will be very helpful. If a core sampler cannot be obtained, shovels are a good substitute. Several students can use the core sampler or shovel to collect the many samples needed. These samples are sent away and you will receive a detailed report telling you your soil's needs.

  5. Have the students compare different units of measurement, a ruler (with centimeters and inches), a yard stick, a tape measure. Ask the students to predict which instrument will be the best to use in measuring the length and width of their garden plot. Assign groups to use each kind of measure.
  6. Explain the use of a compass to determine geographic direction. Assign a group(s) to determine the geographic orientation of the garden plot.
  7. Visit the garden site to have the assigned groups collect soil samples, use the different instruments of measurement, determine the geographic orientation.
  8. After returning to class have each group report their findings. Compare the measurements from each instrument for accuracy and ease of use. Decide if the class predicted correctly which instrument would work best for the job.
  9. Discuss the importance of the geographic orientation in determining planting priorities for the different height plants.
Teacher observation of participation. Students will write a paragraph in their journals about their part in each of the two activities. They will describe what they did, how they did it, and why it was important to the garden.
Cross Curriculum 
Students will make measurements of their garden and prepare the soil.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 03. Providing Service
      1. Benchmark E.3 Describe the task and the student role.