Yummy Soil Model

Years ago, when I first started teaching the soil unit, I was looking for a way to make it more exciting.  The importance of soil structure is often lost on students, and I finally came up with a great idea: Soil Cake, modeled after the popular Dirt Cake my mom makes, a mixture of pudding, cake and whipped cream.


Here’s how I make it, from bottom to top:

  • graham cracker crumbs- parent mineral material/ C horizon
  • butterscotch pudding- subsoil/ B horizon
  • graham cracker crumbs- eluviation layer/ E horizon
  • chocolate cake mixed with chocolate pudding, gummy worms hidden within- topsoil/ A horizon
  • crushed oreos- humus/ O horizon
  • dyed green cool whip and green sprinkles- plant material
  • gummy worms on top

It’s important to do this in a clear dish, so that you can see the layers.  It’s a great way to demonstrate the horizons of the soil, and you can modify it to look like the soil in your area.  I include thick layer of topsoil, because the chocolate is everyone’s favorite.

Another option is to have all the ingredients, and let people assemble it on their own so they can learn the layers as they make it.  I’ve done that before, but carting it separately into school was a pain, so I’ve gone back to this version.

Last year, when I was buying the ingredients to make these models, the teenage cashier asked what I was making.  When I explained it to her, she said “I wish you were my teacher!”  That made my day.


Filed under Food, Living from Scratch, Recipes

16 responses to “Yummy Soil Model

  1. Great lesson plan. I”ll have to remember this when I get my elementary ed degree. I’m not sure how I’ll work it in if I get a middle school job as a social studies teacher, but I’ll figure it out. Archaeology perhaps? lol!

    You must be the most awesome teacher. Your students are very fortunate!

  2. What a great idea for making learning fun!

  3. I don’t have kids and my husband teaches math but that looks yummy haha. I may have to teach myself about dirt.

    Or can I just come to your class? haha

  4. Very creative, and it sounds delicious! I bet your students make short work of ‘absorbing the material’. 😉

  5. I loved that class! In fact, making me quite hungry for some pudding (which of course I can’t find here!).

  6. Rob

    MMMMMMMMMMMM your classes are tasty!

  7. My roommate makes a version of this titled simply “Dirt”. It is my favorite dessert in the history of the world. BEST. TEACHER. EVER.

  8. What a creative way to get your concepts on soil across to your students. THIS is what they will remember and it will help them to remember the scientific concepts. Way to go, TEACH!

  9. P.S.

    It reminds me of your brother’s football team’s favorite “good luck” dessert! I’ll never forget making that “Dirt Dessert” complete with gummy worms for every pasta dinner because the boys were superstitious and thought they couldn’t win without it! Only for them, it was in punchbowl-size!

  10. Just made model #2 (I have three classes…) #3 will be on Friday.

    The kids loved it today and I got many “thank you’s” today. It was nice!

  11. Katie

    We did cookie mining in Earth Science earlier this year and the students have not stopped asking when I would bring in food again. This is the perfect idea to add to my soil unit next year!

  12. glenn rosazza

    This is very creative and undoubedly very tasty. I’m just wondering about the message it sends. It seems we have to bribe, conjoule, feed, and generally persuade students to learn.
    I have to show documentary films and videos that are less than a couple years old ever since “Planet Earth” came out.

    Many of my students come into the room with the attitude, well I’m here I did my part now teach me something. If they get bored they tune out and start to talk. Example, I too often hear the term “busy work.” It seems, if a lesson isn’t relative to a student or they feel they will never use the information they’re learning, it’s meaningless to them. Also, many only do what they need to do to get the grade they want. Therefore they form coalitions to divide and conquer a new chapter. They don’t see cheating as cheating. They’ll tell me, we’re learing the information, what’s the big deal?

    Thanks for the recipe, Even at 6:30AM your soil cake is mouth watering. 🙂


    • Glenn- I agree with so much of what you have to say. It’s very frustrating when students are ambivalent about issues (like climate change!) that I’m so passionate about.

      However, I refuse to stop being fun. If this sends the message that science is fun, I’m fine with it, and for the most part my students are very appreciative of any fun, exciting activity, like this, that I add to the course.

    • Ms. Torres

      Dear SpongeGlenn SquarePants,

      The message that it sends is learning can be fun. So pull your stick out of the mud (hope it isn’t cemented) and try something new. Your snoring students will thank you later.

      Fun Teachers Everywhere

  13. Kate

    Thanks for the idea! I used it today (just a few days before the AP Environmental Exam) as a way to get them to remember the soil layers, and also as a reward for all of their review efforts and to lift their mood. They loved it – both the teaching strategy and the dessert!. Even my husband remembers the layers now! I used crushed E.L. fudge cookies for the E layer, and made brownies instead of chocolate cake for the A-layer (still working on coming up for an “A” food for the A layer (students suggested asparagus and apple sauce – yuck). I’ve used food in several activities this year, and it’s evident as we review that they remember every one of those activities. Thanks again!!

  14. glenn

    Ms Torres – I never said anything about snoring students, you must be referring to your classroom :-). Next year we move into a new high school and the administration is banning food from classrooms. I could take the students outside with the “yummy soil model.”

    I’m all for making science fun. Does anyone have a way to make the oil spill in the Gulf a fun lesson?

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