Composting Can Be Heaps of Fun!

Every earthworm knows that May 29th is National Learn About Composting Day!

Compost is made by combining certain types of waste — like food scraps, leaves and wood chips — and exposing them to air and water over time to allow them to decompose. Once these organic materials are mixed together, microbes and bacteria get to work breaking down what we’d usually throw away. After this new material is dark in color, without any remnants of food or waste leftover, your compost is ready to add to soil.

Waste not, want not! Compost is an ecological powerhouse helping to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, contributes to richer, healthier soil in our gardens and farms, and is a great way to repurpose food waste and lessen landfill use. Composting is also a fun, hands-on way to get your family involved in outdoor learning.

Whether you are a composting champion, or are interested in learning how to start making the most out of your family’s food waste, use the resources, videos and activities below to learn more!

Breaking Down the Science of Soil & Food Waste

Kids Go Green: Reducing Food Waste

Grades K-5
Learn about the impact of food waste on the environment in this video animation from WNET. In this clip, discover ways to reduce food waste. Use the discussion questions and teaching tips for ideas on using this video to help students consider ways to conserve food.

Soil Composition | Think Garden

Grades 3-6
This video from KET’s Think Garden collection explains why soil is more than just dirt. Learn how to tell if soil is rich and healthy or lacking in nutrients, which nutrients are essential for plant growth, and what happens if plants lack these nutrients. Also find out how to improve soil with crop rotation and by weeding, what compost is, and how to use it in a garden.

Compost Worms

Grades 4-12
Learn how to set up a composting bin to watch organic waste be recycled by worms, and how to set up a composting bin of your own, creating worm castings that are high in nutrition and can be used in gardens in this video from WyomingPBS.

Why Soil Matters

Grades 4-12
Learn why soil is the key to stopping land degradation and increasing farm productivity in this PBS Wisconsin Education resource. Human activity and climate change are degrading once-productive farmland, decreasing the amount of food that can be grown. In this QUEST video, Will Allen explains how increasing soil fertility will ensure our future food security.

Reducing Food Waste | Our Hungry Planet

Grades 6-10
Did you know that the average American creates 20 lbs of food waste per month? You’ll be surprised by all the things you can do to pitch in to help reduce the amount of food we waste.

Infographic: How-To Compost | Nature

Grades 6-12
Composting is the combining and managing of specific waste materials so that they decompose. Once the materials are mixed together, microbes in the soil will start to breakdown the waste and turn it into the nutrient rich material that helps plants grow. By composting, you are not only creating something that helps keep plants healthy, but you are keeping compostable waste products like food scraps and yard waste out of landfills. This infographic reviews the dos and dont’s of composting, where and how to compost, what to compost and what not to compost.

Healthy Soil Systems

Grades 7-12
When plants naturally decay, their nutrients return to the soil and keep it healthy. This video from Nourish, featuring author Michael Pollan, explains how soil health can decrease over time unless harvested plants are composted and returned to the soil.

Lettuce Compost Together!

Make a Composter

Grades PreK-3
What happens to a pile of old leaves outside when you add a dash of time, maybe some worms, and a healthy splash of moisture? Make soil perfect for a garden just like Daisy’s from Nature Cat!

Can You Dig It? Digital Game | Martha Speaks

Grades K-5
In this Martha Speaks interactive story students discover how plants and animals depend on each other in an ecosystem. Fallen leaves decay; earthworms eat the leaves and fertilize the dirt. Then trees use the fertilized soil to grow.

Worms at Work!

Grades 1-4
Get close-up and grossed-out as you learn about the wonderful way worms work in our environment. Learn vermicomposting, and dig into how an author may write text to support his or her point of view.

Cyberchase | Trash Dash Game

Grades 2-5
Watch this video from Cyberchase as teams compete to score as many points as possible by sorting objects into bins for reuse, recycling, compost, or landfill and completing obstacles along the way. Then, try the Trash Dash at home with this printable activity.

Get Waste Deep With Local Projects & Resources

AdkAction: Composting for Good Project

The goal of the Adirondack Compost for Good project is to help Adirondack communities turn food and other organic “wastes” into high quality compost. This process keeps nutrients in the community, which builds local resilience, heals soils, and helps reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. Visit the AdkAction website for more resources to start your composting journey, including updates on NYS food waste laws; recordings of the open forum discussion series, Compost Cafés, for questions related to composting at any scale; and instructional video to walk you through making your own a 3-bin compost system.

Cornell College of Agriculture & Life Sciences: Healthy Soils, Healthy Communities Project

The Healthy Soils, Healthy Communities project is a research and education partnership with New York’s urban gardeners and others interested in healthy gardening. Find key resources about backyard composting, or composting in schools, community gardens, or other community settings from the Cornell Waste Management Institute and Cornell Cooperative Extension.