Making Potting Soil
Student Engagement
Place of Learning: 
60 minutes

ESY Berkeley Teaching Staff
Edible Schoolyard Project
Berkeley, CA

In this lesson, students participate in making a potting mix using a recipe. Students will: read recipe, delegate tasks, measure ingredients, and work together to mix potting mix in a coordinated choreography.
Student Learning Goals & Objectives: 

After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Understand the different components that go into a potting soil
  • Work collaboratively as a team to thoroughly mix and transport the potting soil

During this lesson, students will:

  • Measure ingredients according to the recipe.
Materials & Prep: 
  • Potting soil recipe - visual aid
  • Cup measure
  • Wheelbarrows
  • Shovels
  • Push broom or Rake
  • Watering cans
  • Sifter screens
  • Base soil mix
  • Sifted compost
  • Sand
  • “No fuss” compost (oak leaf and straw mulch that composts in place for 3 years)
  • Perlite
  • Amendments: Green Sand, Rock Dust, Oyster Shell, Feather Meal
Procedure Steps: 
  1. Using a push broom or rake clear an area on the ground, ridding area of any leaves or debris. This is where you will stage the perlite and mix the potting soil together.
  2. Dump desired amount of perlite onto cleared ground and soak thoroughly with water.
  3. Set out the four amendments with measuring cup either in place where they can be accessible.
  1. Introduce the lesson and tell students that today they will learn how to make potting soil and very similar to Kitchen classes, we will be using a recipe and deciding among the group who will be working on what ingredient.
  2. Invite students to make observations about the perlite that is on the ground. Ask them why they think this would go in a potting mix?
    • Note that this could be done as a think-pair-share
  3. Ask several students to share out to the whole group.
    • Explain that Perlite is exploded rock fragment that provides texture and drainage to the potting mix.
  4. Read through recipe as a group. Taking turns reading through each ingredient.
    • Now is a great time to share about the Amendments and how they are the equivalent of vitamins.
  5. Have students chose which ingredient they would like to measure out and contribute the the soil mix.
    • Students may work individually or in pairs depending on the ingredient.
    • Explain what materials the students will use to measure out the ingredient they have chosen (i.e. wheelbarrow and shovel or sifter and wheelbarrow)
    • Instruct students that once they have measured out their ingredients, to empty their wheelbarrow on top of the soaked perlite.
    • For the student who measured the Amendments explain to them that they should use a cup measure and add them to the pile carefully do they don’t blow away in the wind.
  6. Once all ingredients have been measured and added to the ground with the perlite have all students grab a longer handled shovel and form a circle around the pile.
  7. In unison: put shovels in, flip the soil, and step to the right. This choreography will help to mix pile evenly and can be a fun team building activity.
  8. Once pile of potting soil is mixed evenly leave pile as is or transport to storage bin.
  • Have students share with the group what ingredient they were responsible for adding to the potting mix.
  • Share that this potting mix will be used in pots when upsizing plants.
Download Lesson Materials
  • Perlite
  • “No fuss compost”
  • Drainage
  • Amendment
Teaching Notes: 
  • Adults should pre soak the perlite with water before students arrive to station. Perlite dust can be harmful to breathe in, this is why pre soaking is very important for safety.
  • When mixing the potting soil use the analogy that it is like make cake batter, “You don’t want huge clumps of flour or the cake will taste bad. The same way our plants won’t grow if they are planted in a huge clump of sand.”
  • End product of potting soil should look like a “starry night sky”
  • Describe the job of measuring the Amendments is the equivalent of measuring out spices or seasoning at the spice table in Kitchen classes.
  • Encourage students to call out “ shovels in, flip, step to the right”
  • Ask students what’s working or not working about the mixing choreography, use their feedback.

All lessons at the Edible Schoolyard Berkeley are a collaboration between the teachers and staff of the Edible Schoolyard and Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School.

UCSC CASFS methods of turning soil mix: 1.3 Propagating Crops from Seed and Greenhouse Management pg 47