How to Make Compost in the Classroom

Overview

Composting is one way to study biology up close in the classroom. Children can learn how vegetation decomposes or is consumed and becomes nutrient-rich soil. Because of time constraints and for sanitary purposes--as well as space reasons--composting using a bin indoors in a classroom setting is impractical. Instead, teachers can show composting in a short time with vermicomposting. Vermicomposting uses red worms to convert kitchen scraps into soil.

Step 1

Drill five staggered rows of holes with five holes per row across the bottom of each plastic storage container using your drill with 1/4-inch bit.

Step 2

Turn the lid of one container upside-down and place it on a counter in your classroom. Place a juice glass upside-down on each corner of the lid.

Step 3

Drill a series of ventilation holes in a ring around the top of each bin using the drill with 1/16-inch bit. The holes should be spaced 1 inch apart. Drill 30 evenly spaced holes across the top of the second lid.

Step 4

Place one of the bins face-up on top of the juice glasses. Soak the newspaper shreds in a sink filled with water. Wring out the newspaper and place it in a 3-inch thick layer in the bottom of the bin that sits on the juice glasses.

Step 5

Fluff up the newspaper and sprinkle 1 cup of dirt on the paper. The worms will use this to help digest food.

Step 6

Add 1 pound of red worms to the bin. Cover the damp newspaper with a sheet of card board.

Step 7

Have your students collect kitchen scraps to feed the worms. Worms eat anything you would normally put in a compost heap, including fruits, vegetables, grains, and coffee and tea leavings. Do not feed worms oils, fats or meats. Feed worms ½ pound of food daily for every 1 pound of worms that you have. Bury these food scraps in the shredded newspaper in a different location each day.

Step 8

Prepare a second bin of newspaper and place it directly onto the soil of the first bin when your first bin fills with dirt. Place the lid with holes onto the top of this bin. The worms will migrate from the bottom bin through the holes into the top bin. When all the worms have left, you can remove the lower bin, and you and your students can use the dirt for container gardening.

Things You'll Need

  • 2 opaque 10-gallon plastic storage tubs, with lids
  • Cordless drill
  • ¼ drill bit
  • 1/16 drill bit
  • 4 plastic juice glasses
  • Newspaper shredded into 1 inch strips
  • 1 cup of garden soil
  • Cardboard
  • 1 pound of red worms
  • Kitchen scraps

References

  • Washington State University Extension: Cheap and Easy Worm Bin
  • New Mexico State University Extension: Vermicomposting
  • Washington State University Extension: In the Spring, Our Thoughts Turn to Composting

Who Can Help

  • Iowa State University Extension: Growing in the Garden
Keywords: vermicomposting, worm composting, classroom compost bin

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."