Soil Sleuths

Seed to STEM
Grade Level: Middle School

In this unit, students will learn about the essential nutrients for the growth of corn plants. Students will also learn how farmers use soil sampling to monitor the health of their fields by analyzing the nutrients it contains. By knowing the soil health in different parts of their fields, farmers can strategically plan what parts of the field need what types and amounts of fertilizer. Students will learn and practice the proper procedures for collecting a soil sample. They will then examine their soil samples by determining the different soil components, testing soil pH, and exploring how air space allows soil to hold and transmit water. Students will consider why corn can be in grown in all 50 states, but also what makes Kansas soils ideally suited to growing corn. Students will also have the opportunity to test various soils, using MudWatts, to create their own  biofuel cell.

Learning Objectives

Learning Objectives
• Compare and contrast the essential nutrient requirements of plants and humans.
• Explain why plants cannot use elemental nitrogen found in the atmosphere.
• Identify the sources for each essential nutrient needed by plants.
• List aspects of soil composition.
• Understand that soils are living and dynamic.
• Recognize that plants take up water and nutrients from the soil.
• Recognize that growing crops can deplete agricultural soils of nutrients.
• Understand soils provide support for plants’ root systems.
• Understand soils hold water and make it accessible to plants.
• Understand geobacter produces energy outside their bodies that can be used to power “small” electronics.