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Paleontological Research Institution


6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th


Science, Physics, Earth and Space Sciences

Resource Types

  • Experiments
  • Worksheets
  • Activity - Outdoors

Regional Focus




Climate Change Toolkit: Solar Energy & Soil Temperature

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  • This outdoors experiment is an effective way for students to learn how soil absorbs solar energy at various depths, times of day, and during different seasons.
  • A student data sheet, background information, and instructions to complete the hands-on experiment are included in this resource.
Teaching Tips


  • The worksheet includes helpful graphs and visuals to aid in explaining the phenomenon of solar energy absorption by soil.
  • Students collect real data in a simple experiment.

Additional Prerequisites

  • Students should be familiar with the concept of solar radiation and how it can be absorbed or reflected back into the atmosphere.
  • Students should be able to read and create line graphs.


  • Consider having students work in pairs and choose a variety of experiment locations or soil types to test.
  • Have students make predictions about soil temperature gradients before completing the experiment.
  • Connect this experiment to topics such as insulation, energy efficient building designs, green roofs, animals that burrow under ground, or ancient human remains from caves and other underground locations.
  • This video from the same organization further explains the phenomenon.
  • Additional resources to aid in exploring how soil impacts climate are Essentials of Environmental Science: The Importance of Soil and Project Hero Soil Quest.

Scientist Notes
This resource has students use probe thermometers to measure soil temperatures at various depths in order to understand the impact of solar radiation from the sun on soil ecosystems. This document is similar to that presented in the video Resource PRI-5. The experiments presented in this resource can be conducted either outdoors or indoors and includes supporting information. This resource is recommended for teaching.
  • Science
    • ESS2: Earth's Systems
      • 7.ESS2.1 Develop a model to describe the cycling of Earth’s materials and the flow of energy that drives this process.
      • HS.ESS2.4 Use a model to describe how variations in the flow of energy into and out of Earth’s systems result in changes in climate.
    • PS3: Energy
      • 6.PS3.4 Plan an investigation to determine the relationships among the energy transferred, the type of matter, the mass, and the change in the average kinetic energy of the particles as measured by the temperature of the sample.
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