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Paleontological Research Institution


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


Science, Biology, Earth and Space Sciences, Mathematics

Resource Type

  • Videos, 4 minutes, 47 seconds, CC, Subtitles

Regional Focus



YouTube Video

Sunlight Stored in Soil

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  • This video demonstration describes how solar energy is stored in the Earth's soil and how soil temperature changes at different depths.
  • It connects the stable soil temperatures to ecologically important habitat for hibernating organisms and plants and identifies this as a solution for passive heating and cooling.
  • The experiment shown could easily be replicated as a lab exercise.
Teaching Tips


  • A thorough verbal explanation and presentation of graphical data shows how soil is effective at storing solar energy.
  • The narrator presents many options for collecting this type of data that could be simply applied outside of the classroom.

Additional Prerequisites

  • Students should be familiar with terms such as solar energy and temperature.
  • If you'd like to gather data with your students, you need enough thermometers for your class.


  • Before watching the video, lead a discussion about student predictions of how temperature changes in the soil throughout a day or year. Ask students if they think soil temperature changes with depth.  Ask students what animals might depend on soil temperature for survival.
  • Math students can use this resource to connect interpreting data and creating graphs to solving important questions in science and society.
  • To learn more about soil and extend this lesson, show students this NASA's Earth Minute: Dishing the Dirt resource and then have students work in groups to describe how soil moisture and temperature affect ecosystems.
Scientist Notes
This resource uses kitchen thermometers to show how the ground has different temperatures at different depths. It goes on to explain how this property of the ground can be used for geothermal heating/cooling. This resource is recommended for teaching.

This resource addresses the listed standards. To fully meet standards, search for more related resources.

  • Mathematics
    • Statistics & Probability: Interpreting Categorical & Quantitative Data (9-12)
      • HSS.ID.A.3 Interpret differences in shape, center, and spread in the context of the data sets, accounting for possible effects of extreme data points (outliers).
  • Science
    • PS1: Matter and Its Interactions
      • HS-PS1-5. Apply scientific principles and evidence to provide an explanation about the effects of changing the temperature or concentration of the reacting particles on the rate at which a reaction occurs.
    • PS3: Energy
      • MS-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.
      • HS-PS3-4. Plan and conduct an investigation to provide evidence that the transfer of thermal energy when two components of different temperature are combined within a closed system results in a more uniform energy distribution among the components in the system (second law of thermodynamics).
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