Learning to Give, Philanthropy education resources that teach giving and civic engagement

Cool Kids Compost
Unit of 3 lessons

Unit Overview:

Focus Question: What can we do to promote responsible use of all resources? 

Unit Purpose:

Through a food-waste survey in the lunchroom, the learners explore what gets thrown in the lunch trash at school and learn about earth-friendly alternatives that reduce waste in landfills, including recycling and composting. Learners discover the benefits of compost and reasons to promote it in the community. They share their knowledge with others through implementing a student-generated and planned service project. 

Unit Duration:

Seven 45 minute class periods, additional time to implement the service project

Unit Objectives:

The learner will:

  • define environmental stewardship.
  • recognize the need for recyling food waste.
  • develop questions in order to understand the importance and process of composting.
  • investigate food waste in the school.
  • demonstrate understanding of new vocabulary through graphic representions.
  • communicate in writing the results of their food-waste survey.
  • discuss a literature selection on composting.
  • compare and contrast dirt and compost through observation.
  • recall vocabulary related to composting.
  • research information about composting. 
  • brainstorm ideas for a service-learning project.
  • come to a consensus on a service project related to food waste. 
  • create a plan of action and complete the service project.
  • reflect on the impact of their project.
  • share the results of their service with peers and/or family.

Service Experience:

Although lessons in this unit contain service project examples, decisions about service plans and implementation should be made by students, as age appropriate.

Learners conduct a survey to determine  needs  in their school for environmental stewardship related to food waste. They will report their finding to the school population. Learners plan and carry out a service project involving composting, with the goal of reducing food waste in their school, home, or community.

Unit Assessment:

Teacher observes learner participation in discussion, writing activities, and the lunchroom survey and data analysis. Evaluate student participation in research, discussions, and the compare/contrast activity. Assessment can be made on evidence of student learning through the puzzle-piece discussion, especially noting use of appropriate new vocabulary. A teacher-created vocabulary and composting fact quiz may also be used.

School/Home Connection:

At the beginning of the unit a letter to families informs them of the topic of composting. Students ask their family members for suggestions for service projects they might be interested in helping with related to food waste and composting, and invite family members to help with resources or by volunteering for the service.

Notes for Teaching:

This project may be tied to an Earth Day service project

  • During this study of composting, it is highly recommended that  students have the opportunity to observe decomposition in action. This could be done in several ways using the plans for "Building a Soda Bottle Bioreactor" found at  http://compost.css.cornell.edu/soda.html: the teacher could construct a Soda Bottle Bioreactor as a class demonstration using food scrapes gathered by the students in the school lunch room; groups of students could construct bioreactors in class using donated materials; or the instructions could be distributed to each student with a request for volunteers to build the bioreactors at home and bring them to class to share.
  • Prior to teaching this unit, investigate composting resources in your local community. This may include a municipal or business composting program or a local garden club with a guest who may speak to the class about composting.
  • It is a good idea for teachers to visit the Internet resources prior to introducing the lessons. 
  • If the student-chosen service project is one that requires funds, such as creating a compost system for school food waste,  local environmental organizations or  http://donorschoose.org may be a source of funding.  

State Curriculum and Philanthropy Theme Frameworks:

See individual lessons for benchmark detail.

Lessons Developed By:

Harriet Oliver
Jackson Public Schools
Northeast Elementary
1024 Fleming Ave
Jackson, MI 49202

Jodi Gerrits
Zeeland Christian School
Zeeland Christian School
334 W Central Ave
Zeeland, MI 49464

Wesley Faulkner
Romulus Community Schools
Merriman Elementary School
15303 Merriman Rd
Romulus, MI 48174

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Unit Contents:

Overview:Cool Kids Compost Summary


A Messy Survey
Rotten Research
Got Dirt?

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