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3rd grade teachers integrate science and ELA to teach about soil


How do you best learn about soil? By, quite literally, getting your hands in the dirt! Several rock star 3rd grade teachers, such as April Tran (Armstrong School for the Arts) and Zandria Butts (Phenix PreK-8), used the GLOBE Soils Module to introduce their students to soils in a multidisciplinary and experiential way. GLOBE, or Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment, is an international education program developed to build understanding of Earth systems and the environment.  


The elementary GLOBE storybook The Scoop on Soils was used in ¬†English language arts (ELA) classes to introduce the unit, as well as to practice ELA skills such as building vocabulary through the understanding of suffixes; comprehension of nonfiction texts; and comparing and contrasting settings, characters, and plot events. Educators Erica Butler and Billie Holbrooks aligned the Soils Module and wrote the ELA curriculum.  


In science class, students completed two hands-on experiences. As a part of the Getting to Know Soil activity, students collected their own soil samples, placed them in a clear plastic bottle with water, and recorded observations after 2 minutes, 10 minutes, and 24 hours.


Armstrong School for the Arts student Peyton Roberts said, “It was honestly very cool because we got to observe it for two days and got to see the different layers of soil in person.” While classmate Kawan Spells said, “I liked it because we got to shake up the soil mixed with water, then we got to see how it progressed after a few days.”  


Kailyn Carraway, also an Armstrong student, observed, “I thought the soil was really awesome! It looked disgusting at first, but the more you let it sit the more you can see the different layers. At the top there was water and the pollen floated to the top.” 


Students used magnifying lenses and their senses of touch and smell to compare samples of silt, sand, and clay soils and learned about the soil properties of grain size, color, and texture.  


Students also learned about the importance of soil in the activity We All Need Soil . As a part of this activity, students made connections between how plants and animals (including humans) use soil. Educators Zandria Butts and Carole Birdsong aligned the Soils Module for science and wrote the science curriculum.


HCS third grade teachers have been implementing GLOBE during the 2021-2022 school year.  GLOBE is supported by NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the National Science Foundation.