Composting – What and Why?

Composting is a mesmerizing way for children to learn about the cycling of matter and the actual continuity between the dead and the living.  As food scraps from their lunch power the various creatures in their compost pile, youngsters can observe over time how these dead plant materials help earthworms (and others) to grow.  They notice too that the scraps are gradually being transformed as they are eaten by bacteria and fungi and / or travel through the earthworms’ digestive tracks.  The rinds, discarded crusts, and broccoli stems become, eventually, dark, rich humus.  This material is then transformed yet again when the children add the finished compost to their garden – where it becomes part of the topsoil.  Of course from here, it gradually becomes incorporated into the tissues of both the growing plants and the beings of that ecosystem. And matter’s journey – it’s cycling and recycling – continues.

All this is truly awesome – and thought provoking.  The children’s nimble minds quickly move beyond initial disgust at the decomposing vegetables and squirming earthworms.  Soon they are vocalizing  wide-ranging – and often comforting – speculations about the implications of this entire (and very ancient) process of material cycling and energy flow…

Here’s a coloring page that you can use with children of various ages and adults to convey some of the essential science and reasoning behind composting – an earth-care practice that deserves to be encouraged!

Compost, Humus and the Cycling of Matter Click on the following PDF title for the initial black and white coloring page:  Compost Info and Coloring