Start a Compost Bin: Cool Science Project for Kids

Green kids — By Stephanie on June 16, 2010 at 5:54 am
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Composting starts at home (image from solylunafamilia on Flickr)

Worms, dirt and decomposing food.  Does this sound like summer fun for your children?

If you start a compost bin, you may be doing more than just helping the environment.  Composting is the ultimate way to recycle food.  And, its a cool science project for kids!  Once you have some amazing organic soil, you can even use it in growing your own garden.

Its a summer full of fun and fresh food for your family!

Here’s how to compost:

Four main ingredients are necessary for food and other compostable materials to break down: carbon, nitrogen, water and air.

For best results, experts believe that you should combine both wet and dry material in equal measures.  Wet items high in nitrogen include banana peels, coffee grounds and vegetable peelings/scraps.  Dry items higher in carbon include dry leaves raked from the yard.

Layer the materials in a pile or use a compost bin like the one shown above.  Be sure to water the compost materials frequently and turn them with a pitchfork every week to add air.

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Compost bin - on its way to fresh, organic soil (image from canarskiebk on Flickr)

Tips for a successful compost pile or bin:

  1. Yes to coffee grounds, fruit and vegetable scraps and even compostable materials like Sun Chips bags.
  2. No to meat or fish scraps (peee-u!)
  3. Create a compost bin or pile in a location is warm and sunny, and not too far from a garden hose
  4. Dimensions should be about 3x3x3 (3 feet tall, 3 feet wide and 3 feet deep)

Organic materials usable in your soil can result in about 3-6 months, if you add proper materials and turn your compost bin or pile regularly.

Kids ages 3 and up can help you with this project at every level.  Teach your children to scrape food scraps into a separate container that will be added directly to the compost pile.  Do not include bones or meat scraps.  Other material like orange or banana peels, left-over sandwich scraps and apple cores are perfect.

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Compost soil - the end result! (image from Tanais Fox on Flickr)

Get your kids involved in this cool science project by assigning them the responsibility of scraping proper food scraps into a container that will be added to the compost bin.  Have them separate out compostable and non-compostable materials.  Children older than 10 can help turn the compost materials in the bin or pile with a pitchfork or shovel.

All children in your family can learn scientific lessons from adding compost to the garden.  Talk about the importance of recycling food.  Ask questions like, why does it help to compost?  What is it in the materials that helps gardens grow?  Perhaps even review the scientific process involved in breaking scraps down into fertile soil.

At the end of three months, hopefully you have been able to enjoy some fresh food, learn some interesting science lessons, and most importantly, watch your children grow as fast as your garden!

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  1. Another great thing to compost: Chinet plates. Whenever we have a BBQ or large function with paper plates, we use Chinet plates, and have people toss them right in the composter after scraping them off in the garbage. They break down really fast.

  2. What a great summer science project! Thanks! I would like to share a list of Middle School Science Projects at

    Pragmatic Mom
    Type A Parenting for the Modern World
    I blog on education, parenting and children’s lit

  3. Stephanie says:

    Thank you Pragmatic Mom! My oldest is in Middle School, so we’ll take a peek at your list. Best to you!

  4. Dinesh says:

    Liana – I’m curious – what method of composting are you using? Just an outdoor bin that you turn every so often?

    A lot of folks have trouble breaking down plates & food packaging, so eager to hear how you get it to break down so quickly.

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