Earth's Systems

Soil Properties

Discover more about soil properties in this excellent outdoor activity from the National Park Service!

Soil's Role in Carbon Sequestration

1. The map, “Earth’s Biomes,” shows the locations of 18 types of biomes and their distribution around the world.

Soil, the Forgotten Resource

Soil is often overlooked as a natural resource. Like fossil fuels, we depend on it for energy in the form of foods. And, like fossil fuels, it is nonrenewable. Soil is a delicate balance of inorganic minerals, organic matter, living organisms, soil water, and soil atmosphere. The natural development of soil is an exceedingly slow process. In a few hours, a heavy rain falling on exposed soil can remove inches of what took hundreds of years to form. Here is a simple exercise that will allow you to compare the rates and amounts of erosion that result from various land uses.

Solar Cell Energy Nationwide

MY NASA DATA microsets are created using data from NASA Earth science satellite missions. A microset is a small amount of data extracted from a much larger data file. Data is available on the atmosphere, biosphere, cryosphere, ocean, and land surface. Data and related lessons can be used with existing curriculum to help students practice science inquiry and math or technology skills using real measurements of Earth system variables and processes. In this activity, students use NASA data to determine areas of the country that are most likely to produce solar energy by analyzing differences in incoming solar radiation graphs.

Solar Updraft Tower

Electricity is the most common type of energy used around the world to power homes and businesses. Traditionally, electricity is generated in power plants that burn coal or oil. These resources have been used at a rapid rate and also give off greenhouse gases, which have contributed to global climate change.

Sources of Minerals

We are surrounded by objects that we depend upon for our everyday lives. From our clothes to our phones, bikes, cars, showers, plates, chairs, televisions, computers, and nearly everything else, we rely on objects made of a variety of materials. But where do those materials come from in the first place, and what happens when we run out of them?

Splish Splash

Crucial to our existence, water sustains all life on Earth. Following the old adage, "What goes around comes around," water moves continuously through the stages of the hydrologic cycle (evaporation, condensation, and precipitation). How does our drinking water fit into this hydrologic cycle? Where did the water we drink fall as precipitation? Did this water percolate down into the ground as part of a groundwater system, or did it remain on the surface as part of a surface water system? What path did this water follow in order to become our drinking water? This lesson will explore the hydrologic cycle and water's journey to our glass.

Sustaining Living Soil with Composting

Composting is the decomposition of organic waste materials in the presence of water, air, and microorganisms to produce organic fertilizer. Organic matter improves soil quality by feeding soil organisms, provides plants nutrients for growth, and enhances soil structure and water holding capacity., while reducing our dependence on synthetic fertilizers.

Take the Pulse of Your Classroom

The following activity can leverage SeisMac technology to help students understand how a seismometer records ground motions.

The EarthTrek Gravestone Project

The Gravestone Project, part of the global citizen science program called EarthTrek (, is seeking volunteers to visit cemeteries around the world and collect scientific data on how marble gravestones are weathering.


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