Objective: Children will explore how farmers use compost to enrich their soil by creating and maintaining a worm composting bin.
Note: This lesson creates an ongoing activity. You will prepare the compost bin as one activity, care for the worms daily, and harvest the soil in about 3 months.
Harvesting your Composted Soil
1. You will know your compost is ready for harvesting when there is more compost and less bedding. This typically takes about 3 months.
2. Spread a thick plastic tablecloth on the ground outside. If you are doing this inside, lay the tablecloth in a plastic baby pool to keep the compost contained.
3. Anyone handling the compost should put on disposable gloves.
4. Remove the mixture from the composting bin and mound it in a pile on the tablecloth.
5. Shine the flashlight on the pile. The light will drive the worms to the bottom.
6. Now harvest the compost. Small lemon-shaped pieces of soil are actually worm cocoons; be sure to add these along with the worms back into the worm bin.
7. Return the worms and some of the compost to the original bin. Mix them with fresh potting soil, newspaper, and water, as if you were starting over.
8. Use the collected composted soil. The children can mix it with potting soil and use it to plant seeds or bulbs in pots or create an outdoor garden of flowers or vegetables.
Worms can be used to make compost in the classroom. Worms are natural decomposers, breaking down organic material into smaller pieces through digestion. Worm composting takes up much less space than leaf composting. Worms love paper and break it down very quickly; worms also create rich soil.
Composting is a process that occurs when tiny, microscopic organisms break down old plant and animal tissues and recycle them to make new, healthy soil. About 30% of all the garbage in the United States is made up of waste from food and yards. Composting is a great way to recycle household and lawn waste. This waste includes grass clippings, egg shells, and orange peels.
Do not use “regular” worms from the soil in your yard or playground. Red wiggler worms work best in composting containers. Composting worms, such as red wigglers, can be purchased from garden supply stores or through the Internet. Fall is a good time to start worm composting. It takes a few months for the worms to create a good rich soil. When the compost is ready to harvest, it will be just in time for spring planting.
These lessons are aligned with the Common Core State Standards ("CCSS"). The CCSS provide a consistent, clear understanding of the concepts and skills children are expected to learn and guide teachers to provide their students with opportunities to gain these important skills and foundational knowledge.
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There are currently no Common Core Standards for pre-k, but these lessons are aligned as closely as possible to capture the requirements and meet the goals of Common Core Standards. However, these lessons were neither reviewed or approved by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices or the Council of Chief State School Officers, which together are the owners and developers of the Common Core State Standards.
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