The Dirt on Dirt

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In this fun gardening activity, learners discover their soil type. There are three basic soil types: sand, silt, and clay. Using only a jar, water and a bit of water softener, learners will sort their soil into its parts. The activity includes a "What's going on" section as well as information about what makes a soil ideal for gardening.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
4 to 24 hours

Estimated Materials Cost:
1 cent - $1 per student

Age Range:
Ages 6 - 14

Resource Type:


Materials List (per student)

  • A clear quart-size jar (such as a mayonnaise jar)
  • One teaspoon water softener (such as Calgon)
  • A stopwatch (or an ordinary watch)
  • A marker or grease pencil


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Earth Structure
      • Rocks and Minerals

Informal Categories

  • Gardening


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



  • , Exploratorium,