I recently picked up this SID the Science KID DVD for my daughter.
It features 4 episodes. One is about animal communication, one is about birds, one is about leaves, and one about dirt. This activity was us expanding on the episode about dirt and bringing what we learned to life with a hands on experience. I think any time kids can get outdoors is really beneficial, I believe the same for sensory play, and of course science is a very important subject for kids to gain knowledge on. This activity combines all three of those wonderful things. Hands on activities really do help kids learn so much better than when they just hear or see something during a lesson!
In the episode the kids collect some dirt in a bucket, pour it onto a tray, explore it with a magnifying glass, and then draw what the saw in their journals. We did the same thing!
To start, I had my daughter in her swimsuit doing some sprinkler play. We eventually used the sprinkler to get a section of dirt in our yard wet. This created mud! That in itself is a wonderful science and sensory experience for kids. When water is added to dirt it creates mud! How fascinating. Once it became mud I gave my daughter her Minnie Mouse cultivator and shovel. She used the cultivator to loosen up the mud a little bit and the shovel to get it into her bucket. Try and make sure your little one(s) doesn't get a bunch of grass their bucket, which is especially easy to do if they use a cultivator and put that straight into the bucket. You don't want that grass throwing off the result of what is IN the dirt.
Once the bucket had enough mud/dirt in it we took it over to her outdoor table, which had one of our plastic tot trays waiting on it, and dumped it out onto the tray! She started to touch it immediately, kind of flattening it down as if it was play dough. We used our hands and the cultivator to spread the dirt around on the tray so we could find out what was in it.
I encouraged her to use her magnifying glass to get a closer look. She was very eager to do so! This and other fun science activities are great for getting kids used to using magnifying glasses, which are a very important tool in the science world.
We also realized that our dirt, at least what we got from the first inch or so of the ground really didn't have a lot of things in it. There was no little rocks, no worms, no different colors (things they found in their dirt in the SID the Science KID episode). We did see some little pieces of grass and what seemed like roots. After playing with the dirt for a while though, we did start to see some ants, and then we saw a VERY SMALL gray insect of some sort. They're so tiny they are hard to see. It's great for kids to get to see that there are some living things in the world that are that small. It's a very impressive thing.
After we were all done exploring our dirt we hosed off our tray, bucket, shovel and cultivator and set them out in the sun to dry.