How to Make Composting in the Classroom Fun (And Educational) for Kids

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Updated | 2 min read

Whether you’re teaching about decomposition, sustainability, or a host of other topics, setting up a classroom compost bin for the kids in your class is a prime hands-on learning experience that’s good for the planet.

Not sure how to teach composting to kids or how to create a composter for the classroom? The teachers on the Teach Starter team have put together instructions to make composting for kids fun, plus we have information on how some teachers can get free compost bins for your school!

What Are the Benefits of Composting in School?

In Australia alone, 7.6 million tonnes of food is lost or wasted in just one year. Sadly, 70% of that food waste is still edible when discarded. While Australian households generate the most food waste, schools contribute heavily to the issue. Australian students throw away 5 million sandwiches and 3 million pieces of fruit each year! Collectively, Australia’s food wastage costs the economy $36.6 billion. That’s a lot!

Composting our food waste, in general, can do myriad things for the environment, from reducing the amount of trash that ends up in our landfills to improving water quality. But composting in schools teaches kids to be good stewards of the Earth while also providing real-life lessons on biology, chemistry, and physics.

Setting Up Composting For Kids

Get a compost bin

To start things off, you’ll need a compost bin for your students (and you) to fill with scraps that can be turned into compost. If this composting project will remain in the classroom rather than being set up somewhere outside on school grounds, a simple plastic tote will do the trick, or you can check out this list of popular composters for use inside.

green bubble with the words

Add holes

Although your bin should keep your waste nice and dark for breaking things down, ventilation is key! If you opted for a plastic tote rather than a bin specifically created for composting, you’ll need to drill holes around the top of your bin to allow for airflow.

Perform a lunchbox audit

To help start composting for kids in your classroom, a lunchbox audit puts food waste issues into a real-life context. Using these helpful lunchbox audit worksheets, your kids can collate the food waste they’re creating, graph the data, and create a plan of action for reducing their food waste.

A lunch box and and lunchbox audit worksheet laid out on a student desk

Register your school’s program

OzHarvest runs a 10-week curriculum-aligned education program called FEAST (Food Education and Sustainability Training) which teaches primary and secondary students the impact of food wastage on the environment and the importance of healthy eating. Alternatively, you can visit your state government website to learn more about local programs and initiatives your school can register for.

Decide if you want to vermicompost

You can keep things simple with basic food waste and other organic materials from the classroom that will decompose, or you can add an extra fun component for the kids — earthworms! Called vermicomposting, using worms to break down materials offers your students additional hands-on learning … if they’ll touch the worms, that is!

how to build a worm farm instruction sheets for kids on an orange background with two lime green bubbles with text that reads

What Can We Compost At School?

The best part of composting for kids is the learning experience, but this is probably our second favourite part: The fact that so much food waste can be plucked out of the trash stream and put into the classroom recycling bin!

Some biodegradable items you can recycle in your classroom include:

  • Fruit and veggie leftovers like orange peels and apple cores
  • Shredded paper (staples should be removed first)
  • Coffee grounds and filters
  • Tea bags (again, staples sound be removed)
  • Dry cereal

Post one of these compost/trash/recycle posters where kids can see them, so they know what to throw in the compost bin, what to recycle, and what can go in the garbage can!

3 garbage pin posters - rubbish, recycling and compost - laid out against an orange background with 2 neon green bubbles with the words

How to Pay for Your Classroom Composting Project

Composting is a relatively inexpensive project, but it’s also an important one. That’s why there are some funding sources out there for teachers.

See more fun science resources for teachers to use in the classroom!

Banner image via shutterstock/light field studios


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  • Douglas Klaffer

    As part of this composting unit I'd love a professionally designed infographic about what to feed worms - I've found some online, but they tend to be very wordy and often not in 'kidspeak'. A poster that shows the best food for worms, what to feed in moderation and what NOT to feed would be great - I'm sure yours would look better than anything I can knock up! Thanks for your time Doug Klaffer

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