School Composting: Learning Opportunities

Learning Opportunities

Jenn Davis, community compost coordinator, teaches 4th graders at Cambridge Elementary School about a closed loop food cycle, using pictures and arrows Composting is an organically mediated decomposition process, in which microorganisms recycle organic wastes into a stable and nutrient rich humus. The processes taking place during managed composting are well understood and the practices and resulting products are very safe. Composting is done at almost every scale from backyards and classrooms, to municipalities and on farms. The process starts by mixing correct proportions of different organic materials to create a habitat where microorganisms flourish, metabolize the materials, and destroy pathogens and weeds seeds in the process.

School composting programs, especially those on-site, have the potential to teach children important lessons about decomposer systems and their role in ecology and sustainable communities, as well as personal responsibility, cooperation, and thoroughness. Within the composting process itself many areas of study overlap creating a matrix of integrative study that is easily applicable within the daily life of the school community.

For example:

  1. Earth Science and Ecology: Global Carbon and Nitrogen Cycles and their role in food systems, global climate, and the composting process
  2. Physical Science: Density, moisture, temperature, and chemical make up of materials in our world and in the compost pile
  3. Mathematics: Calculation of volume, weight, the Carbon to Nitrogen ratios of different materials, and the combination of these formulas in compost system development
  4. Scientific Process: Collection of data, identifying dependant and independent variables, correlating patterns in data with compost pile conditions
  5. Biological Science: Life science, food webs, metabolism, microorganisms, and the cycles of organic life on the planet and in the compost pile
  6. Nutrition: Soil-to-soil nutrient cycles and the role of compost in human nutrition and health