The Incredible Edible Soil

The Incredible Edible Soil

FROM: Caroline Moore | Healthy Communities of the Capital Area, Gardiner, ME

TIME: 30-60 minutes + prep

CATEGORIES: Classroom, Projects + Activities, Curriculum

Soil is the foundation of our whole food system, but is often cast aside as "just dirt."  This hands-on lesson allows students to explore the composition of soil and why it is so important, looking at different soil samples and then building their own edible “soil.”


  • 1 educator (teacher, parent, farmer, Farm to School educator, soil scientist, or other guest/volunteer)
  • Soil samples
  • Snack-sized Zip-lock bags
  • Chex cereal
  • Dried cranberries
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Measuring spoons


STEP 1: GET ORGANIZED. Collect your soil samples and purchase ingredients for the “edible” soil.  Gather and prepare at least two bagged soil samples of different types (i.e. one with a high clay content and one with a high sand content) from a school garden or backyard.  You may want additional bags to pass around the room. Local gardening stores or cooperative extensions may also be able to help.

STEP 2: INTRODUCE SOIL. Start by asking students to brainstorm what soil is and why it’s important. Introduce the four components of soil – organic materials, inorganic materials, water, and air. Then explain there are three types of inorganic materials, each with different properties in terms of water flow and retention.  Use the visual of a basketball, a baseball, and a marble to help students visualize the size difference between sand, silt, and clay.  

STEP 3: EXPLORE AND COMPARE. Pass the soil samples around, or give bags to each student or small groups. Have students hypothesize which has more clay, more sand, etc. Older students can dissect soil samples, separating organic and inorganic materials.

STEP 4: MAKE YOUR OWN EDIBLE SOIL. Define loam and give the proportion of sand : silt : clay in loam. Then have students make their own loam soil trail mix using Chex cereal (4 Tbs.), dried cranberries (4 Tbs.), and sunflower seeds (2 Tbs.), respectively. Be sure students wash hands first!  

STEP 5: EAT & EXTEND. As students enjoy their snack, extend the discussion of soils.  Consider how soil composition varies with location, both locally and nationally (much like different trail mixes with different amounts of each ingredient).  Encourage students to think outside of the box, brainstorming non-food products that are connected with the soil, such as medicine, shelter, cotton, and more.  Other potential discussion points include the Dust Bowl, soil health/nutrients, and other healthy homemade snacks.   


  • Students understand the importance of soil in supporting our whole food system 
  • Students see how soil impacts their daily lives
  • Students learn about healthy snacks and how to make them at home
  • Students learn about plant needs


This lesson can be modified for students of all ages, by altering the level of information provided and the number and level of extension activities. Alter ingredients as you see fit, maintaining relative differences in “particle” size. Other ideas for extension include running a soil test on your own school garden or making seed balls.

About Farm to School Recipes for Success

From garden parties to cooking contests, farm visits to STEM lessons, farm to school programs all over the Northeast are sizzling! The Farm to School Recipes for Success contest features the top ten best projects, activities, lessons and ideas chosen from dozens of “recipes” submitted by schools and programs in advance of the 2015 Farm to Institution Summit on April 7-9. This contest is sponsored by the Northeast Regional Steering Committee of the National Farm to School Network and is funded by a USDA Farm to School grant with support from the National Education Association. Visit to learn more.