Students are probably already aware that disposing of America's
trash is a major environmental problem. As landfills around
the country grow and reach capacity, recycling becomes increasingly
important. Your class may be surprised to find out that about
30 percent of the trash produced in the U.S. is composed of
organic yard and food waste. Composting these materials would
not only reduce the burden on landfills, but the resulting
compost could be used to improve soil quality, stem erosion,
and aid plant development.
In this project, students will investigate the amount of
food and yard waste produced in your local area. They will
perform an experiment to find out how compost can improve
soil quality and help plants grow. Finally, they will organize
a composting project and fertilize a garden.
This project incorporates elements of the
Middle school, but can be adapted to suit other grades
Up to 1 semester
Main focus on environmental science, with language arts and
social studies connections
- Gain an understanding of the scientific method and use
the scientific method to conduct all phases of the project.
- Research the environmental benefits of composting.
- Discover how much organic food and yard waste is produced
in their community, learn if the town has a community-composting
site, and find out how much is currently being composted.
- Organize a composting project and use the resulting compost
to improve the soil quality of a garden.
- North American Association for Environmental Education
Excellence in Environmental Education: Guidelines for Learning
Strand 1—Questioning and Analysis Skills (Guidelines A,
C, E, F); Strand 2.2—The Living Environment (A, C, D); Strand
2.4—Environment and Society (A); Strand 3.1—Skills for Analyzing
and Investigating Environmental Issues (A, B, C); Strand
3.2—Decision-Making and Citizenship Skills (A, B, C, D);
Strand 4—Personal and Civic Responsibility (C, D).
- Technology Foundation Standards for Students
Standard 1: Basic operations and concepts; Standard 3: Technology
productivity tools; Standard 4: Technology communications
tools; Standard 5: Technology research tools.
Students will reflect in writing on how it felt to be an environmentalist.
They will report on the results and importance of their project
by sending a description to local officials and newspapers,
asking for their support of composting. To further share their
experience, students will use their research, experiment results,
and any photos or drawings to create a scrapbook or Web site
explaining their project.
- Modem: 56.6 Kbps or faster
- Browser: Netscape Navigator 4.0 or above or Internet Explorer
4.0 or above
- Macintosh computer: System 8.1 or above and at least 32
MB of RAM
- Personal computer (Pentium II 350 MHz or Celeron 600 MHz)
running Windows® 95 or higher and at least 32 MB of RAM
- RealPlayer plug-in. Download for free at http://www.real.com
- WHAT'S UP IN THE ENVIRONMENT video (optional)
- For the chart graph paper (optional)
- Composted soil
- Gardening tools (spade, 10 large flowerpots)
- Soil test, pH kits
- Indigenous, fast-growing seeds
- Data records (Excel, or notebook or log book)
- Excel (optional)
- PowerPoint (optional)
Teacher tool Web sites
Bookmark these Web sites for students
Global warming research sites
Waste management information
- Environmental Protection Agency: Contact Information
Scroll down to the map and click on your region to get contact
information for your local EPA office. Consult with local
officials to get information about waste disposal in your
- Environmental Protection Agency: Office of Waste Management
Scroll down to the bottom of this page for a complete listing
of landfills nationwide. Use this to find landfills in your
to Procedures page
- The Compost Resource Page
This site gives a comprehensive overview of composting.
- Environmental Defense Composting: Nature's Recycling
Get the facts about composting and find what it takes to
start your own composting program in your community or school.
- The Compost Resource Page
Read up on the history of composting, and find out why it
- National Wildlife Federation: Take Action
This site gives great advice on how to write to local media,
write press releases, plan campaigns, and more. You may
want to have your students consult this site for advice
on how to promote their composting campaign within their
school or even their community.