5 Curiosity Questions about Compost
Do you want to try composting with kids, but not sure how to do it? Do you get overwhelmed thinking about starting up a compost bin at your program? Have you tried composting but just ended up with a big random pile? Fear, overwhelm and lack of knowledge can often hold us back from creating a compost pile that offers so many lessons.
My own compost story has a checkered past. Over the years, I have tried different composting techniques and always felt like I was never getting it right because I never got to harvesting the “black magic”. I went to composting workshops, watched composting videos, and bought a compost barrel. I still wasn’t getting the results I wanted. Last summer I made a 3 pile compost kitchen out of pallets. (Thankfully with a little help from my 14-year-old son). Inspired by one of the video’s, I chose not to get fancy and chose not to get hung up on perfection. What I especially like about the 3 bin system is the easy access. Whatever the season, I am able to dump leaves, bury kitchen scraps, and add grass cuttings. It worked! I am proud to say that I just harvested my first wheel barrel of dirt from my compost kitchen and happily put it right back into my garden!
CAN WE TRANSLATE A COMPOSTING EXPERIENCE INTO OUTDOOR CURRICULUM?
A Compost Kitchen helps kids understand what is biodegradable and what is not, understand the decomposition process, and our carbon footprint.
Here are a few Curiosity Questions to start the conversation.
#1. WHAT HAPPENS TO THE FOOD SCRAPS ONCE THEY LEAVE THE TABLE? There are many things that go into a compost pile. Food scraps, brown leaves, and green grass cuttings are a few examples. When collecting food scraps it’s important to come up with a system. I use a stainless steel pail to collect my kitchen scraps. What goes into the pail? This is a great time to teach children about what is biodegradable and what is not.
ACTIVITY: Invite children to determine for one day around meal times what is biodegradable and what is not. What items can be reused and recycled? What items need to go in the trash? What items can be added to compost? At the end of the day, weigh your trash and talk about carbon footprint.
#2. WHAT HAPPENS TO THE KITCHEN SCRAPS IN THE BIN? WHAT NEXT? When my pail becomes full, I take it out to the compost pile that I lovingly called the Compost Kitchen. I dig a hole in the compost pile, dump all the kitchen scraps that I have collected, and cover the hole. The kitchen scraps include: banana peels, tea bags, egg shells, broccoli cores, avocado rinds, and any expired produce (tomatoes, lettuce, etc.) Why do I do this? What is happening? Ahh…the process of decomposition and such a fun thing to teach children.
ACTIVITY: Make a miniature compost bin.
#3. HOW DO YOU HARVEST COMPOST? A few years ago my husband made me a very simple screen for harvesting my compost. I simply put the screen on top of my wheel barrel and rubbed the compost until the dirt fell into the wheel barrel. This is incredibly satisfying and lot’s of fun. As I dug deeper into the compost pile I discovered more of the decomposed “black magic.” It pays to turn the pile. It was a thrill to observe this fascinating habitat and all the critters at work!
ACTIVITY: Compare Compost vs. Regular Soil by planting seeds in pots.
#4. WHAT DOES YOUR COMPOST PILE SAY ABOUT YOU? As I sifted through my compost pile, I found myself going down memory lane. The remnants of our October pumpkins made me think about our pumpkin carving party. As I tossed a few eggs shells back into the pile, I thought about our Sunday morning breakfasts with eggs and bacon. When I saw the avocado cores, they just made me happy as I love my daily avocado sandwiches.
Adding a compost pile to your Outdoor Classroom can offer many opportunities to learn what is biodegradable and what is not, understanding the decomposition process, and our carbon footprint. It’s worth working through the fear and vulnerability.
Do you have a Compost Kitchen story? Share in the comments below.