Soil Color and Redox Chemistry

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Resource Type:Classroom Activities; Curricula and Instruction
Grade Level:
9 10 11 12
Organization:American Geosciences Institute (AGI); Earth Science Week (ESW); Soil Science Society of America (SSSA)
Summary:Are soils like M&Msâ„¢? Yes! Typical soil colors are red, brown, yellow, or black. These colors are often not the color of the minerals in the soil but coatings of iron oxides (Fe203, FeOOH, and so on) or organic matter on particles. The minerals beneath are often quartz or feldspar, which are grey. Soil scientists can identify where the water table is even when the soil is not saturated. Consider the M&Msâ„¢ again. What is the chance that the now-white ones will turn red again? Slim to none. Soil is the same. Once the red (rusty) colors due to iron oxides have been removed and the soil is gray, it is unlikely that the particles will become coated (turn red) again. In this activity, students record canned/jarred soil mixtures for color changes and bubbles.
Earth Science Big Ideas:Big Idea 1
NGSS Discplinary Core Ideas:ESS2.A
NGSS Performance Expectations:HS-ESS2-5
NGSS Science and Engineering Practices:Planning and carrying out investigations
NGSS Crosscutting Concepts:Structure and function
Subjects: earth science week; geology; minerals; rocks; soils
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