Skip Navigation

Highlights - Teachers & Students

Related Topics

Soil Factors Lesson Plan


Natural Resources

Lesson Title

Soil Factors



Estimated Time

3 hours


This lesson should follow a lesson about soil formation so that students have a foundation to support the information in this lesson. Through this lesson, participants will receive an awareness of the components and characteristics of soil.


  1. Following classroom instruction on each of the nine soil factors, students will complete a test of their skills conducted in the field.
  2. Following classroom instruction on each of the nine soil factors, students will complete a written exam covering the information provided in this lesson.


Soil is the foundation of life on Earth. Much of the food we eat comes from the soil in one way or another. Grain, fruit, and vegetables grow in soil and animals utilize other plants that grow in the soil. When we learn about soil, we are able to make better decisions concerning our food and the environment.


We will be studying nine basic soil factors. Can you name any characteristics of soil that we should know about?

(Write the answers on the chalkboard.)

These are all important. Let's compare them to this list of factors.

(Show the Soil Factors overhead and relate the students' answers to this list.)


Using the definition sheet explaining Natural Soil Drainage and Overflow Conditions, explain the concept of soil drainage while students take notes.

Using the Soil Depth Favorable to Roots definition sheet and overhead, explain rooting depth while students take notes. Show examples of plants with different root systems to show that some have very deep roots and some have shallow roots.

Obtain samples of each of the four components of soil (sand, silt, clay, and loam) and store each in its own jar. As a class, examine the four components of soil after reading the Soil Texture handout individually. Obtain samples of local soils. You could have an NRCS conservationist texture the soil to be sure you know the correct texture class. Using the same sample of a local soil, the entire class should practice the soil texturing methods outlined in the Determining Soil Texture by Feel Method handout. By moving through the flow chart together, students will become accustomed to the routine and how the soil feels to others. Compare findings to the Soil Triangle handout. Have students work in groups to texture the samples of local soil.

Write on the Soil Structure overhead using information from the Soil Structure definition sheet to explain soil structure to the class in a lecture format. Have the students take notes on the Soil Structure note pages as you lecture.

As a class, read the Permeability handout. Have the students predict what will happen when you pour water into each of the four jars of soil samples that were used in the texturing lesson based on the information discussed. Pour water into each jar and explain the difference in the rate that water flows through each soil. Compare the students' predictions with the results.

As a class, read the Gravel, Stones, and Other Rock Fragments handout. Using a soil sample with rock fragments, sieve the soil and determine the volume to rock fragments to the volume of soil.

As a class, read the Slope and Shape of Land handout.

As a class, read the Salinity or Sodium Problems handout. Use photos to illustrate each of the soil conditions. Discuss the effect that salt or sodium loading can have on water quality and agriculture.

Discuss the information provided on the Calcareous definition sheet while students take notes. Provide photos of mottled soils. Obtain soil samples and test them with dilute hydrochloric acid.

Equipment and Supplies

  • Chalkboard and chalk
  • Determining Soil Texture by Feel Method handout
  • Diluted hydrochloric acid (10 percent solution) with dropper
  • Overhead projector and markers
  • Permeability handout
  • Photos of saline, sodic, and saline-sodic soils
  • Plant samples for rooting depth
  • Sample of calcareous soils
  • Samples of sand, silt, clay, and loam in jars
  • Samples of local soils
  • Soil Depth Favorable to Plant Roots overhead
  • Soil Factors overhead
  • Soil Structure note pages
  • Soil Structure overhead
  • Soil Texture handout
  • Soil Triangle handout
  • Squeeze bottle of water


Your local Soil Survey is available from the Natural Resources Conservation Service office located in your local USDA Service Center.

Visual Aids

The following documents are available in Adobe Reader format. Once you have saved the file to a local drive, open Acrobat Reader then open the saved file on your local drive. If you encounter any problems with the files provided on this page, please contact Webmaster at 406-587-6945.

Calcareous Definition Sheet (PDF; 68 KB)
Determining Soil Texture by Feel Method Handout (PDF; 85 KB)
Gravel, Stones, and Other Rock Fragments Handout (PDF; 81 KB)
Natural Drainage and Overflow Conditions Definition Sheet (PDF; 69 KB)
Permeability Handout (PDF; 88 KB)
Salinity or Sodium Problems Handout (PDF; 68 KB)
Slope and Shape of Land Handout (PDF; 81 KB)
Soil Depth Favorable to Roots Definition Sheet (PDF; 125 KB)
Soil Depth Favorable to Roots Overhead (PDF; 71 KB)
Soil Factors Overhead (PDF; 101 KB)
Soil Structure Definition Sheet (PDF; 111 KB)
Soil Structure Note Pages (PDF; 65 KB)
Soil Structure Overhead (PDF; 65 KB)
Soil Texture Handout (PDF; 91 KB)
Soil Triangle Handout (PDF; 44 KB)