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Posts Tagged ‘compost’

So, why all these recent posts about composting? Here are some reasons you might teach about decay or compost in your classroom:

  • Study of decay is great for the scientific method. Get students to ask what will happen and why, then observe, and record. Try out different decay conditions – how is decomposition affected by light, water, air?
  • It links to your science curriculum. In New York City, you could teach about decay in the context of seasonal trees (kindergarten), worm anatomy (1st grade), soil (2nd grade), plant and animal adaptations (3rd grade), etc…
  • Proper compost is used to grow new food. Teaching about compost and its role in agriculture supplements study of nutrition and gets kids involved in their food production, which in turn helps them eat healthier.
  • It prepares students to be act sustainably. Recycling is dandy, but is not the full solution to waste management. Compost eliminates organic waste from landfills, reducing their volume, and at the same time provides a free fertilizer for soil. Compost is thus a great use of resources.

These are some reasons to teach about compost. What would you add?

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Your students already know about decomposition and what compost is. You know about opportunities in New York City for teachers to learn about how to compost with students. Now, you are interested in finding kid-friendly compost resources. Great! We can help with that. Here are some kid-friendly composting books to help answer your students’ questions and get them involved in the science of composting:

Compost Stew by Mary McKenna Siddals: this rhyming book is a recipe for what to mix into your compost pile. Kids will join in with the refrain, “Just add to the pot / and let it all rot / into Compost Stew.”

Garbage Helps Our Compost Grow by Linda Glaser: using photographs, the story of a family that uses compost in their garden. Features common compost questions at the end, making this a kids’ compost “manual.”

Compost Critters by Bianca Lavies:  the text is written for upper elementary students (grades 3-5), but the photographs make this book accessible to any age. Lavies documents in detail the animals that help her compost pile decompose into rich soil and the wonderful plants she’s able to grow with such excellent soil. This book presents the full cycle of compost into detail.

Handful of Dirt by Raymond Bial: written for older students (grades 3-5), this book photographs in extensive detail all the stuff that’s in dirt. The book will fascinate students and completely change their perspective on soil.

What other great, kid-friendly composting books would you recommend?

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Back to the subject of decomposition! If you’ve already made a decomposition chamber, here are some great resources to continue learning about rot and decay.

First of all, the Magic School Bus! The book The Magic School Bus Meets the Rot Squad is, as you can imagine, all about rot and decomposition. Wanda’s dead log is crawling with all kinds of live things, so Ms. Frizzle and the rest of the class go investigate. There’s a video episode to go along with the book, if you can get your hands on a copy and prefer something televised.

Still not excited about decomposition? Check out this song from Sid the Science Kid. It’s a favorite of the education staff here at Brooklyn Children’s Museum:

PS: New York City teachers – since you can’t watch YouTube in the classroom, here’s a link to the same content on the PBS website (scroll down to It’s Not Scary, It’s Decayed). For more Sid resources on rot, check out all the content associated with “My Mushy Banana,” in which Sid and his friends wonder what happened to the mushy banana that was left out.

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An earlier post talked about worms’ role in composting, but we completely glossed over the concept of decomposition. Sure, it can be gross and smelly, but decomposition is an important scientific concept for students to be introduced to.

Before introducing compost, students should have an experience of watching items decompose. Make a simple decomposition chamber and watch the process of decomposition happen in front of you. Full instructions for this simple project can be found on the Bottle Biology website.

Once you’ve built your decomposition chamber, students will be able to observe what rots and what doesn’t – a great jumping off point for considering which items can be turned into compost and which items have to be disposed of in a different way. You can also revisit worms and add them into the story of decomposition.

Bottle Biology, by the way, is a great website and book set, produced out of the University of Madison-Wisconsin. The concept is simple: observe scientific processes through the clear plastic of a soda bottle. You can find two other activities on the website or purchase the book for more ideas.

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So, you’ve introduced worms to your classroom and you know what composting is. Here are some resources to help you implement composting in your classroom or school garden.

Checking out worms at the Brooklyn Children's Museum's indoor worm bin

The Department of Sanitation’s NYC Compost Project provides some incredible resources for composting. Here are some highlights:

  • Free “worm”shops for NYC teachers
  • Classroom workshops for grades 1-8: a representative from the local compost demonstration center will come to your classroom and demonstrate composting, with live worms included
  • Field trips for students: visit your borough’s compost demonstration site
  • Service learning opportunities: contribute to compost projects in your community
  • Low-cost starter worm bins and red wiggler worms at cost (for $55, or a discounted $44 if you complete a “worm”shop)
  • Other websites for composting education (we will be featuring a few of these on the blog soon!)

Starting a worm bin or outdoor composting site may seem like a lot of work, but with all these resources, it should be much easier… Happy Composting!

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So, you’ve got worms down – let’s turn to composting.

First of all: what is it? Composting is the process of taking unwanted organic material, allowing it to decompose, and then using the decomposed soil as a great fertilizer for your garden or farm. The idea is to take unwanted items — a rotten tomato, a banana peel — that would otherwise end up in a landfill and put it to productive use. In other words, composting helps take waste and use it to create great soil, which will then be used to grow new food.

To make this work, you have to be careful about what organic material is used: no animal or dairy products!!! You can compost plant parts, including fruits and vegetables, as well as some unusual materials, like eggshells and newspaper. Basically, the materials are all “greens” or “browns” and you can use this complete list from New York City’s Department of Sanitation for reference.

If you decide to compost at home or at school, you will want to read a book or two on the subject. Check out Let it Rot!: The Gardener’s Guide to Composting by Stu Campbell. This book, in print for 30+ years, will teach you everything you need to get started and create great compost for your farm or garden.

Now what? There will be posts later this week and next month on:

  • The NYC Compost Project
  • Composting with Kids
  • Composting as Sustainable Practice
  • Decomposition in the Classroom

Are you excited about compost yet?

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And now a shift from birds, to what they eat!

The next couple of posts will talk about composting and gardening, but first let’s start with worms.

Ask any gardener – worms are great! They start with dirt and turn it into wonderful soil, which helps plants grow. To help kids understand, read Wonderful Worms by Linda Glaser. It’s a great book with clear explanations of a worm’s role in making useful soil.

For the teacher, check out Backyard Scientist: Exploring Earthworms With Me by Jane Hoffman, for more science activities to do at home or in school with worms.

And check back on this blog in the next few days for more about worms and their role in waste management and growing food.

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