Dirt is what you get on your hands and under your fingernails when playing outside. Dirt is useless. Soil on the other hand is amazing-it can support life!
Soil is made up of five main elements: water, air, minerals, organic matter, and organisms that are the decaying remains of once-living things. Soil is formed on the surface of the earth and is needed to grow and support plant life. We could not survive without soil!
Soil provides an anchor for plants to secure themselves to the earth so they aren't blown away or destroyed. Plants absorb nutrients from the soil so they can continue to grow.
Soil is also an important factor in cleaning and regulating water. When it rains, healthy soil can absorb and regulate the rainfall to reduce flooding. Filtering and cleaning the groundwater we drink is also an important role that soil plays.
It is important to protect soil, otherwise erosion can occur. Erosion is when soil is carried away by wind or water. You can see signs of erosion in agriculture when the water draining from fields is very dirty--the dirty water means soil is being carried away from the field. Erosion is often a bad thing for farmers because the healthy soil is being carried away from their fields.