How Does Soil Form?

Contributor: Hannah Brooks. Lesson ID: 12447

Where does dirt come from? Is it sort of just "there," holding up plants and getting on your clothes? Dirt "grows" very slowly and you'll dig in to find out how and create a kids' book to teach them!


Earth Science

learning style
personality style
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!


Aren't these cavern formations amazing? They look like icicles, but you might say they are dirtcicles! Find out how looooong it takes soil to form!

The formations in caves can take thousands of years to form.

Did you know that soil can take hundreds of years to form?

If you missed or would like a refresher on the previous Soil lesson, find it in the right-hand sidebar under Related Lessons.

While it may seem like a simple process to create soil, it actually involves many different factors working together. Soil formation starts with the bedrock or parent material. This is the rock matter that can be found in an area. Think of the parent material like a base that the loose soil builds on top of, like dust on a shelf!

The parent material contains minerals and elements that can be broken down and will build up in the soil above. It can determine what kind of soil forms in an area.

The climate in an area can also impact soil formation. Precipitation and temperature can determine how quickly the parent material is broken down through weathering.

The landscape can also impact the formation of soil. If an area has a steep slope, soil will often move downward with water and gravity, changing the type of soil along the slope and at the bottom of the feature.

Soil takes a long time to build up, so time plays an important part in soil formation. It is important to give soil time to rebuild and develop so it is nutrient-rich and able to support life! This is one reason that farmers leave the fields empty during off seasons, so the soil can become productive again. Living organisms in the soil help to add important chemicals to keep the soil healthy. They move water and air throughout the soil, providing resources for plants and other animals in the soil. These organisms help soil develop!

Soil forms over time, growing just like you. It grows up from the parent material, slowly developing based on the minerals, organic matter, landscape, and climate in an area. Each of these factors influences the type of soil formed and the time it takes for soil to develop. Share your learning with a parent or teacher.

In the Got It? section, you will create a graphic organizer that digs deeper into the factors affecting soil formation.

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