Layers of the Earth


Students take a hike along a trail, do pH and percolation tests, and study an area where the layers of soil are easy to see.

Materials Needed: paper, pencil, clipboard, pH test, tin can, mallet, trowels,  gallon of water, stopwatch, small wooden board


  1. Docent informs students of what will take place during the walk.
  2. Docent takes students to soil pit to explore and discuss the layering they see; identifying stratification of the layers that they see.
  3. Docent starts back to pavilion.
  4. Docent chooses a site to take a pH reading. Docent prompts students to think about why the pH of soil can be important. What can change the pH of soil?
  5. After the pH test, Docent picks an area to do the percolation test. Docent explains to students that percolation is how fast the water seeps into the soil.
  6. Docent takes the tin can and taps it into the ground and fills it with water up to the line drawn on the can. A student and teacher are asked to help time the water absorption.
  7. Student pours in water from measured bottle. After two minutes if the water is not fully gone, Docent will prompt students to hypothesize why the water has not been absorbed, or why the water was absorbed so quickly.
  8. Docent takes students back to pavilion.

Alabama Course of Study for Science

This activity meets goals specified for grades:

  • K–#’s 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 14
  • 1st–#’s 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 11, 20, 25
  • 2nd–#’s 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 11
  • 3rd–#’s 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 13, 14, 21
  • 4th–#’s 1, 2, 3, 4, 28
  • 5th–#’s 1, 2, 3, 4, 24

Learning Outcomes

Students will recognize layers of soil and understand that what is on top may not represent what is underneath.

Instrumental Objectives

Students will be able to:

  • experiment with soil by doing a percolation test and pH test.
  • see and discuss the stratification of the soil.
  • connect other activities and layering of the soil to understand components important for life and growth.