I created this activity for my fourth grade students.
Included in this activity:
Soil exploration and Living/Nonliving Sort.
In order to carry out this activity you will need:
Nightcrawler worms (optional)
I split my students into groups of 4 or 5.
Each group gets:
one cup of soil, with a couple worms at the bottom of each cup.
one paper towel
an activity page and pencil for each student
(I usually lay out a large trash bag over each groups table for easy clean up)
Give groups about 5 minutes to explore and list all materials they find in the soil (bark, rocks, minerals, roots, dead bugs, worms, dead plants etc)
As a class discuss what has been found so far. Mentally note whether anyone has found air or water.
Instruct groups to place soil on half a paper towel and press firmly with the other half (like a taco). Discuss with the class what happens to the paper towel (it gets wet). What causes this? (Water) Add water to list of materials.
Instruct groups to place soil in cup and mark the surface of the soil on the cup with a pencil. Instruct students to press soil as far as they can into the cup and mark new line of surface with a pencil. Discuss what would cause this. What did they press out of the soil? (Air) Add air to list of materials.
Clean up soil and ask students to sort their listed materials into categories of living/nonliving. Explain that another term for these is Organic (and inorganic).
Have each student write a full sentence about one thing they learned in this lesson.
Tip: My students LOVE when they find the nightcrawler worms. They all get super excited/grossed out. It makes this activity really exciting for most of them.