How to Make a Compost Pile for Kids

Overview

Making compost can be an educational way to teach children biology, earth sciences, agricultural practices or, as composting becomes mandatory in some cities, even civics. The practice of composting helps to reinforce the lessons that you teach kids. Your children can contribute to building and maintaining their compost pile. In anywhere from two weeks to six months, depending on how you maintain your compost pile, the contents will change into a rich, black loam.

Step 1

Construct a compost bin by bending chicken wire into a circle. Keep your compost bin small so that kids can help with the process. The smallest size compost bin that can effectively make compost is 3 feet square.

Step 2

Collect compost materials with your children to build your pile with. The most effective compost bins use two types of organic scrap material: green organic material such as lawn clippings, clover and kitchen scraps; and brown organic material such as hay, fallen leaves and sawdust. Avoid kitchen scraps such as eggshells. Children who handle eggshells can contract salmonella, a bacteria that can make them very sick. Also avoid oils, meats or fats. These items can attract vermin and turn your compost pile rancid.

Step 3

Clip up the organic material so that each piece is less than 1 inch in diameter. Do not allow children to assist in this process. You can cut large dry pieces such as leaves or hay with a lawn mower, and shred kitchen scraps with a food processor or kitchen shears.

Step 4

Pile the scraps into alternating layers of organic green and organic brown material with your kids' help. The organic brown layers should be three times as thick as the organic green layers. Have kids wear gloves to keep their hands clean and protect them from potential germs.

Step 5

Wet the compost until it is as damp as a wrung-out sponge. Explain to kids that this will help to start the hot compost process by activating the beneficial microbes in the compost pile that decompose the compost.

Step 6

Test the soil daily with a meat thermometer to ensure that the compost's internal temperature stays between 120 and 150 degrees. Explain to the kids that this is the temperature range that the microbes are most active in. Keeping compost this warm will help to speed the composting process.

Step 7

Stir the compost pile so that the outside contents are moved to the inner part of the bin any time the temperature drops below 120 degrees. Tell your kids that this helps to raise the temperature and re-energize the microbes.

Step 8

Help your kids sift the large pieces of compost out of the compost soil to separate them. The soil is finished compost that you and your kids can use. You can return the unfinished compost to the compost pile to await the next batch of compost.

Things You'll Need

  • Chicken wire
  • Wire cutters
  • Pitchfork
  • Lawn clippings
  • Clover
  • Kitchen scraps
  • Hay
  • Fallen Leaves
  • Sawdust
  • Lawn mower
  • Food Processor
  • Kitchen shears
  • Garden gloves
  • Garden hose
  • Meat thermometer
  • Pitchfork
  • Sieve

References

  • Texas A&M University: Composting for Kids
  • Iowa State University Extension: Growing in the Garden Lesson Ideas
  • Washington State University: Backyard Composting

Who Can Help

  • University of Minnesota Extension: Composting and Mulching
Keywords: making compost, educational lessons, organic gardening

About this Author

Tracy S. Morris has been a freelance writer since 2000. She has published two novels and numerous online articles. Her work has appeared in national magazines and newspapers, including "Ferrets," "CatFancy," "Lexington Herald Leader" and "The Tulsa World."