Composting in Kinder; it is quite the experience.
Of course it’s gross! Yes, it sometimes smells. The fruit/veggies might attract gnats. It is disgusting. Repulsive even. Yet an incredible learning tool. Be brave, and make worms poop!
Then, let the kids touch it.
This year, I invited my team to join me on the worm composting train. They are AMAZING; therefore, they quickly jumped on board. I bought two and a half pounds of Red Wigglers from Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm, and we received live worms via mail within the week! It was do or die people. We had to make our worms their happy home.
It really is simple. You need a plastic tub of some sort with a lid. The lid is important for two reasons. The first is that it contains any odors that might seek to assault your nostrils. The second reason: just in case you over-water the worms (which happens from time to time whenever you let the kids water the worms). The worms will seek dry ground and might wiggle their way out of your class’ compost if you choose to forgo the lid.
Next, grab your favorite power-tool and drill tiny holes in the bottom of the container and the lid. If you are feeling zealous about your worms, you might even drill holes on the sides of the plastic container–just make sure that the holes are towards the top of the plastic container. The tiny holes in the bottom of the container allow for water drainage. You will need a second lid to catch the drained water underneath the compost container. The holes in the lid and sides allow air into your class’ worm compost.
The first item on the menu will be newspaper. Your kids will soak strips of newspaper in water. Then, they will place the wet newspaper in the worm compost. Be generous in the amount of newspaper that you offer your baby worms, but don’t worry too much about quantity because you can always add more newspaper later. You do not need to add dirt because that is the fun thing about composting: the worms do all of the work. But don’t tell your kids. You will ruin all of the fun!
The last step: pour the worms and the small amount of dirt that came with the worms into the compost. At this point, invite your kiddos to mix the worms, wet newspaper, and minimal dirt. No tools needed!
Yup. That’s right, let them use their hands.
Place the compost somewhere in the classroom that is out of direct sunlight. Now, the waiting game begins.
One Week Later
It is time to check on the worms! Oh, the kids’ predictions will be hilarious! “They are all dead, I just know it!” or maybe “They have turned into snakes!” or maybe “They have changed colors.” And then you open the lid, and… wait for it…
“What is all that brown stuff?”
Dirt. That would be fresh dirt.
“How did it get there?”
It came from the worms. They ate the newspaper (point to newspaper shavings), and then they POOPED!
This would be a great time to pause and allow the students to share their thoughts about the dirt phenomenon. Some kids will be intrigued, some will think it is hilarious, some will be totally grossed out, and some will just be totally baffled. Then, let the kids mix the worms and give them a little bit of moisture. At some point, watering and mixing the worms can become a weekly job in your classroom. Kids thrive when given a job; therefore, let them do all of the work.
Feed the Machines
When the worms are eating only newspaper, the compost will not smell. They can and will happily eat newspaper for the rest of their lives, but the kids will not experience composting at its finest if you stop there.
I work at a Title 1 school; therefore, every child has the option to eat breakfast in the classroom. There is ALWAYS a piece of fruit offered for breakfast. I let my kids put apple cores, orange peels, and other various fruit scraps in the compost. I’ve even had a kid bring a piece of iceberg lettuce from home just for the worms. I’m pretty sure his parents were oblivious, but how awesome is that?! When we eat lunch in the classroom on early release days, I allow my kids to throw fruit and veggie scraps into the compost. They absolutely love contributing the the worm compost.
My rule is five foods at a time. That is, only five fruits and/or vegetables in the compost at a time. This limits odor and makes sure that we don’t have more apple cores than worms in our class’ compost.
Okay, I know what you are thinking.. .gnats. Put a small container of apple cider vinegar in your compost, and all of your gnat worries will be put to rest.
It’s not in the Curriculum
Don’t. even. say. it.
If your school is so uptight that they will not allow you to compost in your classroom because it is not explicitly in the curriculum, they have lost sight of what teaching is all about. It is up to you to convince them that composting is a valuable learning tool for the classroom. If you will not allow yourself to compost in your classroom because it is not explicitly stated in your curriculum… no wonder your bored with teaching. I’m just being real. Branch out, and bring JOY into your classroom through exploration and discovery.
Explain composting, pitch your idea to your administration, and then write a grant! (Be on the lookout for my next blog post regarding grant writing tips.)
Composting covers numerous student learning expectations. HELLO! Recycling, problem solving, predictions, earth materials, basic needs, habitats, living/nonliving, life cycle of a plant (use that worm dirt people!), and the list continues.
On top of that, you will be giving your kids an invaluable experience that they will remember forever. Always remember, worms are the best classroom pets.