How composting works – lessons and resources

Curriculum links:

EYFS: Understanding the World—children know about similarities and differences in relation to places, objects, materials and living things. They talk about features of their own immediate environment and how environments might vary from one another. They make observations of animals and plants and explain why some things occur, and talk about changes.

KS 1 Science: Yr 2 Living things and their habitats. Pupils should be taught to:

  • Explore and compare different things that are living, dead and have never been alive.
  • Identify that most living things live in habitats to which they are suited and describe how different habitats provide for the basic needs of different kinds of animals and plants and how they depend on each other.
  • Identify and name a number of plants and animals in their habitats including micro-habitats
  • Describe how animals obtain their food from plants and other animals, using the idea of a simple food chain.

KS2 Science: Yr 4 Living things and their habitats. Pupils should be taught to:

  • Recognise that living things can be grouped in a variety of ways [e.g. by habitat, size, number of legs etc]

KS2 Science: Yr 6 Living things and their habitats. Pupils should be taught to:

  • Describe how living things can be classified into broad groups according to commonly observable characteristics and based on similarities and differences including micro-organisms, plants and animals [and fungi!]
  • Give reasons for the classification of plants and animals based on specific characteristics

KS3 Biology

Nutrition and digestion—plants making carbohydrates in their leaves by photosynthesis and gaining mineral nutrients and water from soil via their roots

Cellular respiration—link to aerobic and anaerobic respiration

Interactions and interdependencies—interdependencies of organisms in an ecosystem

KS3 Chemistry

Earth and atmosphere—Earth as a source of limited resources and efficacy of recycling

Carbon cycle

 

Extension activities

Write a persuasive letter to your headteacher asking whether the school could create a wormery to recycle vegetable scraps from your school kitchen.

Link your study of the process of composting to the waste paradigm. What other materials that you use in school can be easily recycled? How well does your school recycle?

Set a design and technology project for your students. Can they design a compost heap or wormery using recycled materials?

Explore the themes of death and decay in art. Some good examples of contemporary artists who create works based on decaying flowers or fruit and vegetables include: Sam Taylor Woods, Kathleen Ryan who recreates mouldy fruits using beads and gemstones, the textile artist Brigitte Picavet who uses recycling alongside mixed-media techniques to explore beauty and decay, and Valerie Hegarty. 

 

Compost activities and games

Make a wormery: lots of help available online. Some of our favourites include:

https://www.twinkl.co.uk/resource/t-tp-397-making-a-wormery-step-by-step-instructions

https://www.lincstrust.org.uk/wormery

 

If you have space and access to materials you could build a logpile in your school grounds. This excellent post from Creative Star Learning provides lots of tips. 

https://creativestarlearning.co.uk/early-years-outdoors/log-piles-creating-a-flourishing-wildlife-community/

 

Grab some magnifying glasses or a bug pot if you have one. Search out piles of dead leaves or fallen branches in your garden or school grounds. What minibeasts can you find living in the dead material? See our ‘Guidelines for a successful bug hunt’below

 

Find some pictures of examples of garden and kitchen waste that can and be composted and also some that should not be added to the compost heap. Print these images to make a series of flashcards and play a round of ‘Compost or not?’ with your class. This game can be great fun played as an active game outside in the playground where you can get students to vote with their feet depending whether they think the item on the flashcard is suitable to be added to the compost heap or not. The RHS Campaign for School Gardening has a classroom based variant of this game here: https://schoolgardening.rhs.org.uk/Resources/Activity/Make-great-compost-game

 

Other resources

For EYFS watch and discuss the Peppa Pig episode Grandpa’s Compost Heap https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oqXIkRpernc

KS1: George Saves the World by Lunchtime (Eden Project Books 2006) by Dr Jo Readman (Author), Ley Honor Roberts (Illustrator)

KS1 Leaf Litter Critters (Peachtree Publishing 2018) by Leslie Bulion

KS2 Really Rotten Truth about Composting (Let’s Explore Science 2016) by Jodie Mangor (Author)

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