Logs to Soil

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In this outdoor activity, learners cut through and investigate rotten logs and then make log-profile puzzles for each other. Learners cut through the limb to expose a vertical profile, study the pattern of decay, and find evidence for the tree’s life history. This activity calls for learners to saw logs, but for younger groups, adults can do the sawing.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
1 to 2 hours

Learning Time:
45 to 60 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
Over $20 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 8 - adult

Resource Types:
Activity, Field Trip, Game, Lesson/Lesson Plan


Materials List (per group of students)

  • bow saw or crosscut hand saw
  • large bag
  • trowel
  • egg carton for storing samples (plus extras)
  • hand lenses or bug boxes
  • marking pen
  • meter tape or ruler
  • large envelope
  • small index cards cut into thirds
  • paper clips
  • white glue
  • pencils
  • Action Cards (page 5 in PDF)
  • piece of flagging for each rotten log


  • Life Sciences
    • Diversity of Life
      • Plants
      • Animals
      • Viruses and Bacteria
      • Protists and Fungi
    • Ecology
      • Ecosystems
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Asking Questions
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data
      • Formulating Explanations
      • Communicating Results

Informal Categories

  • Nature and Environment
  • Outdoor Activity
  • Physical Activity


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • read
  • be mobile
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



  • All rights reserved, The Regents of the University of California, 1982