Digging Deeper with Compost

By Eve Pranis

While your compost is "cooking," don't just sit and wait -- your compost pile is a living laboratory and can be a centerpiece for studies across the curriculum. Consider having students conduct some of the following activities and brainstorm more of their own.

  • Regularly measure and chart the temperature and dimensions of the pile over time.
  • Draw or build a model of the layers or components in your pile. Describe how they change. Which original ingredients can be identified over time?
  • Examine the different compost components under a microscope. Draw, describe, and try to identify them.
  • Sort and classify organic materials outdoors as either dry (high carbon) or fresh (high nitrogen). Discuss how you made decisions about how to classify them.
  • Based on what you've learned about decomposition and composting, draw a diagram to illustrate how an apple core could become part of a tomato and then part of you.
  • Calculate the proportion of school lunch trash that could potentially be composted. Teach other students how to sort school lunch trash into compostable and non-compostable materials.
  • Conduct a survey to determine what percentage of student families and teachers compost at home.
  • Become compost "experts" and develop a newsletter or presentation to help teach others.
  • Find out what happens with grass clippings, leaves, and other yard wastes collected in your town or city.
  • Discuss this quote by Loren Eisley: "Nature has no interest in the preservation of her dead; her purpose is to start their elements upon the eternal road to life once more."

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