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Activity 1: Trash Time!

What’s in your trash and where does it go after it’s picked up?

– Gloves
– Board

Step 1: Next time your garbage can is full, grab some gloves and go through it one piece of trash at a time. As you take out each item,  ask the students if it can be put in the compost bin as food for the worms.

*If you think it is not sanitary, you can prepare ahead of time a fake trashcan with strategically placed garbage with some food scraps, paper, tea bags, metal, etc.

Step 2: While you classify the objects with the help of your students, have a volunteer write down each of them, separating them in two columns: “Good for the worm bin” and “Bad for the worm bin. 

Step 3: Once you are done taking out and reviewing each item, have one of your more brave students add the good composting materials to your worm bin. Remember not to add too much, because it could drown the worms.

Scaffolding: On the board, make a list of the different bins where the trash can go. Should some of it be in the recycling bin ? Can some of it be reused?

Enrichment: Talk to the students about the garbage’s path after it leaves the classroom. Who picks it up, where is it taken, how does it make its way from the classroom to the landfill?

Helpful Links: Check out this cool documentary, A Story of Trash

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Activity 2: Looking for Leaves

Why do leaves disappear from the floor after a while?

– Leaves
– One sheet of paper per student

Step 1: Take your students outside and have everyone look for decomposing leaves. Have them pick up 3-4 leaves each that they think are in the various stages of composting.

Step 2: Have your students arrange the leaves from less to more decomposed. Pass out a sheet of paper and glue and tell them to paste them in order. 

Step 3: Talk to your students about the changes of color (from green to orange to brown), thickness (they get thinner as they decompose), and size. Compare the changes the leaves go through in nature to the changes they see in the food scraps in the worm bin.

Scaffolding: Give the students anther sheet of paper and ask the students to draw the path the leaves go through from when they’re green in the tree, the changes in color during the fall, when they fall to the ground, until they finally become compost. Then, tell them to draw the process a banana peal goes through, from when it is yellow, when it is eaten, then out in the bin, and ultimately becomes compost. Talk about the differences and similarities in both timelines.

Enrichment: To compare the decomposition process of food in different environments, divide your students in two groups and give each a banana peel.  Group 1 should put their peel in the compost bin, and Group 2 must put   it outside in an empty container with holes on the lid. Have one of the members of each group take and write down the observations every second or third day. Once the banana peel in the compost bin has disintegrated, have the students make a timeline of the changes in both peels and compare them.

Helpful Links: 

Want to learn all about other things that act as decomposers?

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Activity 3: From Dirt to Food

What path did your lunch take to get to you?

Step 1: Ask the students to write down everything they eat the next time they eat lunch at the school’s cafeteria.

Step 2: When they return to the class, have them draw everything they ate. While they do it, draw your own lunch on the board. 

Step 3: Pick one of the foods you ate for lunch and explain to your students the road it took from the ground to your table. For example, if you ate pasta, tell the process from when the wheat was plantes and harvested, mixed with the milk and eggs and cooked, when it is packed and taken to a supermarket, to when you buy it and cook it for yourself. Explain to them that some foods have shorter paths than others.

Step 4: Have them draw the stories of their own lunches, one food at a time (meat, rice, vegetables, cookies, milk)

Scaffolding: Divide the path of the food into two different ones. The first one is the picking and manufacturing of the food, which usually occurs in one single place. And the second one is the geographical path, that goes from the field, to the factory, to the truck, to New York (for example).

Enrichment: Have students create a food journal for one full day. Ask them to look up on the internet where each of the foods come from and write is down. In class, they have to draw a map of the world or the US and mark the place where each of the things came from, to have a clear picture of how wide spread the path is.

Helpful Links: 

Here’s a very helpful website to calculate the “food miles” of your food!

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