Investigating the soil food web
Category: Biodiversity
Climate Region: Arid | Temperate | Tropical
State or Territory: ACT | NSW | NT | QLD | SA | TAS | VIC | WA
Age Range: 7-13


Suyin’s Grandfather asked if she would help him with the farm over the school holidays. Suyin didn’t need to be asked twice! Suyin found going to the farm and getting her hands dirty a lot of fun. “Soil, Suyin darling, it’s more than just dirt”. She could already hear her Grandfather repeat one of his favourite phrases. What treasures will Suyin find on her visit this time? Suyin is helping her Grandfather in his garden, moving a pile of old mulch. Excitedly, she finds what looks like spider webs growing through the twigs. It is the mycelium of a fungus, recycling the organic material. She wanted to look more closely and take a photo, so she ran inside to grab her magnifying glass and mobile phone. Suyin would later ask her Grandfather about what mycelium is, and how fungi help to break down organic matter.


Soil is much more than just dirt. In this activity, our learners will be conducting an investigation to see which animals and other organisms are recycling nutrients in the garden.

These organisms make up the soil food web, which includes microscopic bacteria, fungi, minute creatures such as springtails, worms, pill-bugs and other creatures we see in leaf litter. This activity invites children to delve under the surface to look for the organisms in the soil and make connections to their role in recycling nutrients.


For children to:

  • explore a sample of soil searching for living things
  • identify elements of the soil food web
  • understand that healthy soil relies on a diverse range of organisms to recycle nutrients
  • use tools to magnify soil sample and identify living things.

Soil food webs are at their most obvious in warm, moist soil with a significant compost layer. This activity is best conducted during a wetter time of year. If it is hot where you live, this should be a morning activity because the organisms you are investigating may be damaged or dry out from too much exposure to heat.

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Why not try one of our other Junior Landcare learning activities?

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Understanding weeds: life cycle


Understanding weeds: investigation


Creating a wildlife habitat: research