First Grade Case Study #1: Soil

Happy Spring, everyone! Warmer weather, rain, sunshine… it’s the perfect time to learn about dirt! The first graders just finished a case study on soil, building knowledge for our exploration of urban farms in Detroit. We learned about different types of soil, the layers of soil, and different ways that soil can form. Students learned about informational writing and wrote informational pages for a book incorporating all their soil knowledge. We learned about different non-fiction text features while simultaneously learning content about soil. They made diagrams, watched videos, read about dirt, and discussed everything we learned.

This unit was particularly fun for me as a teacher because it was so hands-on and the students were eager to apply their knowledge. On the first warm day of the season we went outside for recess. Instead of running around or playing catch, a whole group of first graders were busy poking at the ground, shouting, “WE FOUND SOIL!” Their amazement was so funny to me at first; they always came in from recess covered in dirt in the fall – dirt isn’t a new thing to any of them! They weren’t looking at the soil as kids, though, they were looking at it like scientists. They argued over what type of soil it was and which layers they unearthed as they dug. It’s really is fun to see students take up what they learn and apply it to situations they’re in outside of structured learning time. And who doesn’t love being covered in dirt in the spring?!


We wrapped up this case study by inviting a soil expert to our classroom. We were so lucky to have Pashon Murray, from Detroit Dirt, pay us a visit and teach us about composting! As soon as she walked in the kids were enthralled and excited to share what they knew about dirt. She taught us about different methods of composting brought in buckets of different composting materials so we could observe the whole process. In typical first grade fashion, they asked her a huge variety of “questions” ranging from, “how do animals help with compost?” and “do they compost in other countries?” to, “do people call you?” and “you smell good.” Humor aside, they were all so excited to meet Pashon and learn from her. We’re so lucky to have wonderful people help us with expeditions to make learning authentic and exciting. Next up, we’ll be finishing a case study on plants and moving on to the urban farms. Stay tuned!