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Painting with Soil

Good afternoon! It is January 15th, 2020 and schools were delayed. Sounds like more snow and ice might be coming this weekend. I think it is safe to say that winter is officially here! Meanwhile in the classroom... we are dreaming of warmer weather! January is the perfect time for resolutions, fresh starts, and goals. For the last two years I have taught soil and water quality lessons following Christmas break, with the intention that students will begin to think about their environment and how each and every one of them can play a role in agriculture!

January lessons:

Pre-school and kindergarten: Life bracelets- Students will explore what all living things need in order to survive through the creation of a life bracelet (blue-water, yellow-sun, brown-soil, clear-air).

First: John Deere that's Who- Students will use the art of soil painting to explore science and the natural world while learning about the importance of soil to agriculture, and why soils have different colors.

Second: Sleep tight Farm- Cover crops help provide protection for soil while other crops are not growing on it. In this activity students learn about germination, growth, root structures, and conservation practices by making a cover crop monster and helping it grow.

Third, Fourth and Fifth: Watersheds- We all live in a watershed, the area that drains to a common waterway; such as a stream, lake, wetland, aquifer, or even the ocean. Students will learn that our individual actions can directly affect it.

In today's post we are going to focus on soil paint! Agriculture is a great way to provide real-world connections and what better way to learn about soil than from John Deere himself? We begin each soil paint lesson with the story John Deere that's Who. The story takes place in 1836, John Deere decides to settle in Illinois but soon discovers that the soil is very different than it was in the east. Farmers are frustrated, their plows keep breaking from the "gumbo" like clay soil. They were used to sandy soil. Some farmers even talked about heading back home. John knew he had to do something and set his mind to building a better plow.

Students were surprised to discover that John Deere invented the singing plow and other horse-drawn equipment. We reviewed the story and concluded the lesson by making soil paint! Each student received a small cup of soil. I bought the soils kit from National Agriculture in the Classroom. I asked the students to observe the color and texture. We then mixed the soil with glue and water until it was a paint like consistency. Students noticed that the tan soil was thick and sticky like the clay soil; the red and/or white was loose like sand; and the brown was in between.


1. Soil

2. Glue

3. Water

4. Cup

5. Spoon

6. Q-Tip

7. Coloring sheet


1. Read John Deere that's Who

2. Mix paint (equal parts soil and glue, add a splash of water until mixture is the consistency of paint)

3. Paint coloring sheet with Q-tip


Request the whole lesson plan by emailing Morgan Hibbs at

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