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You've Got What I Need!

Lunch Time
Do you think about where the food you eat at lunch comes from? Do you think about how much water it takes to grow your food? Farmers do. It takes a lot of water to grow food.

Think about it!
Crops use a LOT of water. Listed below are just a few examples.

Food item
(one serving - usually about fist size)

Water required (Gallons)
















The Soil-Water Connection
It is no surprise that plants need water to grow. They also need mineral nutrients. They get these from the soil they grow in.
Growing food in Utah uses 87% of our water resources. We live in a desert. Our water is very limited, so our farmers have to make sure that they have the type of soil that easily absorbs and stores water. It needs plenty of organic (once living) matter and nutrients.
Good soils with plenty of organic matter are crumbly. They take in water, hold water, and even help control erosion. When organic matter is used up, soil packs together forming clods. These kinds of soils don’t absorb or hold water well.
Just checking!
Imagine you are dirt. You want to be good dirt. Are you a crumb or a clod? To find out if you are correct, highlight the box below.

The correct answer is a "CRUMB." Good job!

You're the scientist!
In this activity you will find out how soil from your own garden affects the flow of water. You will determine if you have "crumbly" or "cloddy" soil.


  • Large plastic lid (the type you would find covering a tub of margarine )
  • Large plastic cup or styrofoam cup
  • Piece of cheesecloth (You can get this from any hardware store.)
  • Jar
  • Water
  • Measuring cup
  • Rubber band
  • Straight pin
  • Scissors
  • Watch with a second hand or timer
  • Soil sample (about 250 ml - one cup)


  1. Use the pin to make several holes in the bottom and around the lower part of the cup. (Teacher Note: If you are doing this experiment with your class then comparing everyone's results, make sure that everyone makes the same amount of holes in the cup.)
  2. Put the cheesecloth around the bottom of your cup and secure it with the rubber band.
  3. Using scissors, cut a hole in the plastic lid. Make the hole just big enough for the bottom of the cup to fit inside. BE VERY CAREFUL USING SCISSORS!
  4. Fill the cup half full of your soil.
  5. Place the lid and cup over the jar.
  6. Pour 125 ml (one half cup) of water into the cup.
  7. Immediately look at your watch and record the time.
  8. Observe the cup and record the time when water starts dripping from the bottom.
  9. Record the time that you first observed the water dripping from the bottom of the cup.
  10. After thirty minutes, remove the cup from the jar. Measure and record the amount of water in the jar.
  11. Compare and share your results with your classmates.


  1. What did you find out from doing this activity?
  2. Look at your soil. Does it seem to have a lot of organic material in it?
  3. Get your hands dirty. Take a small amount of your soil (not the stuff you just soaked) and press it together. Is it cloddy or crumbly? If it is cloddy, what could you do to make your soil more crumbly?

Download the plug-ins: Get Adobe Acrobat Reader , and Get Quicktime Player. (The QuickTime plug-in is needed to play sounds and movies correctly.)

Want to share photos of you or your friends doing this activity? Send it in an e-mail with the following information:

  1. The title of the activity
  2. The URL (Internet address)
  3. Your name.

Remember that no pictures can be used that show student faces or student names on it. 

Teachers should view the Teacher Site Map to relate Sci-ber text and the USOE 4th grade science core.

Updated October 24, 2008 by: Glen Westbroek

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