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Soil Health for Educators

Educator Guide Document ArraySoil Health Kit Guides and Videos help teachers and educators implement their soils curriculum. Each guide includes an introduction to the soil property, discussion of the inherent and management factors influencing it, and explanation of the property's relationship to soil function. The educator's guides also include detailed information on a method to measure the soil property and interpretations of the test results. Helpful to educators, the guides double as lesson plans with thought-provoking questions so students can start to apply what they have learned. Videos cover the concepts and soil properties from overview to testing.

Note: Soil Quality Indicator Sheets are available to help conservationists and soil scientists with soil health assessment and training.

Educators, download an example training agenda (Word Document, 82KB) to develop your own session.

  • Soil Quality Measurement (PDF, 1.2MB; YouTube: Overview; Soil Sampling; In Hand Soil Test)
    • Soil health integrates the physical, chemical, and biological components of soil and their interactions. Examine field site or characterization and soil sampling guidelines.
  • Soil Bulk Density/Moisture/Aeration (PDF, 511KB; YouTube: Overview; Test)
    • Bulk density is an indicator of soil compaction. Determine factors which affect bulk density and soil moisture, soil density problems and its relationship to soil function and measure bulk density and soil moisture.
  • Soil Organic Matter (PDF, 280KB; YouTube: Overview; Test)
    • Soil organic matter is the organic component of the soil. Consider factors that affect soil organic matter, how to manage organic matter in soil, soil organic matter relationship to soil function and test for organic matter in the soil.
  • Soil Respiration (PDF, 321KB; YouTube: Overview; Test)
    • Soil respiration is a measure of carbon dioxide release from the soil from decomposition of soil organic matter by soil microbes and respiration from plant roots. Learn factors that affect soil respiration, problems related to respiration, the relationship of respiration to soil function and measure soil respiration.
  • Soil Electrical Conductivity (PDF, 767KB; YouTube: Overview; Test; Sample Prep; EC Probe)
    • Soil electrical conductivity (EC) is a measure of the salts in the soil. Examine how to manage soil salinity, factors that affect EC, problems related to EC, the relationship of EC to soil function and measure soil EC.
  • Soil pH (PDF, 1.5MB; YouTube: Overview; Test)
    • Soil pH is a measure of the acidity or alkalinity of a soil. Consider factors that affect soil pH, soil pH management options, the relationship of pH to soil function and measure the pH in soil.
  • Soil Nitrogen (PDF, 1.4MB; YouTube: Overview; Test)
    • Nitrogen is the most abundant element in the atmosphere and is usually the most limiting crop nutrient. Investigate factors that affect soil nitrogen, nitrogen management and measure soil nitrate/nitrite.
  • Soil Phosphorus (PDF, 1.6MB; YouTube: Overview; Test)
    • Phosphorus’ primary role in a plant is to store and transfer energy produced by photosynthesis for use in growth and reproductive processes. Analyze phosphorus management practices and test soil phosphate.
  • Soil Infiltration (PDF, 616KB; YouTube: Overview; Test)
    • Infiltration refers to the soil’s ability to allow water movement into and through the soil profile. Check into management practices that impact infiltration, problems related to infiltration and measure infiltration in soil.

For the complete video series and lesson plans, visit our partner site: CropWatch - Youth Soil Quality Lessons and Videos

Soil Quality Test Bucket

Soil Quality Test Bucket

The guides for educators offered above are complementary to an abbreviated build-your-own soil health test kit known as the "Soil Quality Test Bucket." The bucket can be assembled to meet your local needs at economical prices. It contains a wearable vest used for easy transport of test supplies in the field.

  • Soil Quality Test Bucket (PDF, 900KB) - Assemble your Soil Quality Test Bucket using our checklist of supplies and possible vendors. Updated 7/9/2015.

Supporting Documents and Videos

(Disclaimer: Trade names are used solely to provide specific information. Mention of a trade name does not constitute a guarantee of the product by the U.S. Department of Agriculture nor does it imply endorsement by the Department or the Natural Resources Conservation Service over comparable products that are not named.)