Deconstructing Decomposition and Compost

Tending an outdoor compost pile is part of older elementary students' responsibilities in their urban orchard. To understand how humans fit into the process, they continue to research and read about decomposition and composting and prepare two activities for their Growing Buddies. They also describe their activities through Computer Journals and e-pal correspondence.

For more about Special #2 from Virtual Urban Gardens e-mail Bill Ganter , author and AT&T Teacher Disseminator.
Learning Standards
  • Understand humankind's interactions with nature, the benefits and consequences of those actions, and the impact of science.
  • Share their work with peers and the community through on-line data collection.
  • Connect science and technology to a variety of career opportunities.
  • Classroom Activities
    Exploring the impact of garbage, biodegradable versus nonbiodegradable, and understanding how humans fit into the decomposition picture, students prepare two activities for their second grade

    Growing Buddies:
    1. Decomposition Drama .
    2. Buried Treasure: Garbage Activity .
    Discussion and journal writing follow.
    Community Activities
    As they continue to mentor their Growing Buddies, older students prepare youngsters to understand and eventually care for their Urban Orchard compost pile.
    Urban Gardeners visit students in their classroom and orchard. Defining and demonstrating natural decomposition and composting i.e. human efforts to recycle natural waste, they describe how farmers, horticulturists, gardeners, recyclers, and food processors contribute to this process.
    The Magic School Bus Meets the Rot Squad, A Book about Decomposition, 1995: Scholastic; Compost! Growing Gardens from your Garbage by Linda Glaser, 1996: Millbrook; Materials for Decomposition Drama (Button #1) and Buried Treasure (Button #2)
    Using Microsoft Word and floppy disks for their Computer Journals, students learn to use the digital camera and scanner and post photos and graphics with Adobe Photoshop software on the Internet for their e-pal buddies.
    Teachers and students evaluate the Growing Buddy activities based on preparation, clarity, and sequence of sharing information and giving directions. Computer Journals and e-mail are checked for accuracy and comprehension of organic vs. nonorganic, biodegradable vs. non- biodegradable materials.

    Web Sites
    Students research composting tips at