If you're researching how to start a school compost program, a wealth of resources are available to get you started. For schools that already have a gardening program in place, adding a compost program will not only complete students' knowledge and experience with nature's cycle of growth and decay, but will also enrich the soil in which the garden grows.
School Friendly Composting Projects
Incorporating a composting program at your school can be a fun, informative way to teach kids as well as faculty the importance of organic matter in soil and the benefit it brings to plant life and our environment as a whole. Billions of microorganisms live in the decaying matter known as humus, which works as a natural fertilizer and soil enhancer. School composting programs are a great way to teach the next generation about the vital role composting plays in providing our soil with regenerative capabilities and our bodies with healthy, good-for-us fruits and vegetables.
Along with traditional composting practices, schools that operate year round may also want to look into vermicomposting which uses red worms. This can even be combined with a gardening project such as growing potatoes in a barrel or box also used to house red worms. Most kids are fascinated by worms, feeding worms and watching the decomposition process and learning about how to use worm casings to enrich the soil. Adding worms to your school compost program offers a number of benefits:
- Helps to create a sustainable soil structure
- Makes composting of household type waste easy
- Provides the possibility of a money making project in the selling of red worms
- A great source for organic fertilizer
One of the main drawbacks to vermicomposting is that the worms must be fed. If your school closes for holidays or over the summer and you plan a vermicomposting project, arrangements must include plans for feeding at times when school is not in session.
School Compost Program Resources
A number of quality books are available to help schools get a compost program started. Here are a few to consider:
Worms Eat Our Garbage: Written by worm expert Mary Appelhof for school, home and outdoor centers, this book offers a full curriculum on the subject of earthworms as it integrates the subject into areas of science, math, language arts, and biology. It offers over 150 worm-related activities suitable for students in grades 4-8. It covers issues including:
- Solid waste issues
Teachers are free to copy non-copyright pages for classroom use.
Composting in the Classroom: Scientific Inquiry for High School Students: This books works as a guide for teachers who want to use composting in research projects at the high school level. Projects listed in this book are suitable for:
- Biology of composting
- Chemistry of composting
- Physics of composting
It offers complete information for building compost bins for indoors or outdoors and for both traditional hot composting or vermicomposting. The guidelines found in this book include steps to study compost effects. It provides a well rounded and interesting approach and is recommended by the U.S. National Science Teachers Association.
Bottle Biology: An Idea Book for Exploring the World Through Plastic Bottles and Other Recyclable Materials: While this book isn't limited to just composting projects, it does include creative ideas for children to learn about environmental science and does include how to build a compost column in a recyclable bottle for easy viewing. A second book, Bottle Biology, does offer a selection of composting projects for ages ranging from elementary school, however the majority of the projects are for older students. This book includes sections on composting, soil, worms, as well as other projects.
The Worm Cafe: Mid-Scale Vermicomposting of Lunchroom Wastes : This book is one teacher's experience when she developed a lunchroom waste composting system using red worms. She saved her school $6,000 in waste disposal fees! This book includes:
- How to guide for starting a school-wide or classroom vermicomposting program
- A letter to parents
- 30-page annotated guide to useful curricular materials on animals, plants and nature
Whether you want to establish a school wide compost program or begin in one classroom, there's no better time to start than now. Practical lessons and experience with composting will touch the future in a positive way as it changes lives not only in school but beyond with low impact living.