How to Compost in the Classroom


Classroom composting is educational and functional because it teaches children how to recycle school waste and leftover lunch to create an organic matter called compost for the soil. Young children learn about recycling, decomposition, environmental care, food chains and ecology. All the children in a classroom can participate in this hands-on activity to learn an important lesson they can incorporate in their homes as well. Use the compost bin or barrel all year round and create different discussions about the environment, agriculture, ecology, conservation and everything in between.

Step 1

Thoroughly wash a 5-gallon plastic storage bin and let it dry. Make sure it has a tight-fitting lid.

Step 2

Drill 1/2-inch-wide holes over the body of the bin along with the base and lid. Space the holes 6 inches apart to provide an outlet for drainage and moisture without jeopardizing the structure. Drill holes before bringing the bin to the classroom.

Step 3

Decorate the outside of the compost bin. Give each child a paintbrush and acrylic paint and let him or her draw, paint or stencil something creative on the outer surface of the barrel. Getting children involved from the beginning keeps them interested and motivated throughout the process.

Step 4

Add fistfuls of potting soil, sand and dried leaves to cover the lower inch of the bin. Mist the layer of potting mix with a spray bottle. Place the bin over a large tray that collects drips seeping through the drainage holes.

Step 5

Add alternating layer of "green" and "brown" waste into the bin. Instruct the children to add "green" waste such as grass clippings, fruit and vegetable peels, apple cores, tea bags and flowers, and "brown" waste such as shredded newspapers, branches, twigs, cardboard and wood shavings. Mist the contents thoroughly.

Step 6

Select a child in charge of the bin, and change every week to give everyone a chance. Assign duties such as making sure the contents of the bin are evenly moist at all times, and mixing them with a long stick once a week. Tell the child in charge to mist the bin if the contents feel dry, or add newspapers if too moist.

Things You'll Need

  • 5-gallon plastic bin
  • Soapy water
  • Sponge
  • Drilling machine
  • Paintbrushes
  • Acrylic paint
  • Potting soil
  • Sand
  • Dried leaves
  • Spray bottle
  • Large tray
  • Brown and green scrap
  • Stick


  • Educator's Guide: Classroom Composting
  • Gardening with Children: How to Make Compost at School
Keywords: classroom composting, composting in classrooms, compost bin

About this Author

Tanya Khan is a freelance author and consultant, having written hundreds of thousands of words for various online and print sources. She has an MBA in Marketing but her passion lies in giving her words wings.