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Goo-ology: Compost Over Time

Activity Objectives

  • Students will observe and handle compost.
  • Students will observe how compost changes over time.

Vocabulary/Literature Resource

  • Compost, decompose, bacteria.

Materials Chart

Consumable supplies to gather and/or purchase     

  • Hand sanitizer
  • 3 month old compost bin
  • 12 month old compost   

Permanent supplies

  • Trays
  • Spoons
  • Magnifiers

Activity Plan

  • Advance preparation: Create compost bins. Project Compost in Davis, CA has a variety of resources, and Explorit has sourced some compost samples from Project Compost. Check with community members, or local recycling agencies for sources as well.
  • Give each group a tray with a sample of the youngest (3 month old) compost.  Ask them to carefully examine the compost, making notes of anything they notice.  This should include the feel of the compost, the smell, the way it looks, the stuff they are finding in it (creatures and chunks – what are they?) etc. 
  • Now replace that sample with the oldest sample.  Allow students time to explore.  Throughout these explorations the educator should be moving from table to table asking questions, helping students find and identify things, and trying to get everyone to think about how the compost seems to be changing over time. 
  • Ideally the students will understand that the creatures they find (millipedes, pill bugs etc.) are beginning some of the breaking down of the compost material.  What they may not be able to note is the large number of microscopic organisms that play a much more significant role in the decomposition of organic materials into useable soil.  The combination of all these organisms create healthy, new soil.


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