Rotten Research

Grades: 
3, 4, 5

Students become experts on composting through research and questioning. They compare and contrast dirt and compost samples and complete a comparison diagram. The learners brainstorm ideas for acting as environmental stewards by sharing their knowledge about composting in order to reduce the amount of landfill in the world.

Lesson Rating 
0
Duration 
PrintTwo 45-Minute Class Periods, Plus Additional Time for Research Projects
Objectives 

The learner will:

  • discuss a literature selection on composting.
  • compare and contrast dirt and compost through observation.
  • recall vocabulary related to composting.
  • research information about composting.
  • brainstorm ideas for a service-learning project.
Materials 
  • a read-aloud copy of one of these literature books: A Handful of Dirt by Raymond Bial; Composting Nature's Recyclers by Robin Koontz; or Compost! Growing Gardens from Your Garbage by Linda Glaser
  • access to research materials: books, Internet sites, teacher-made print copies from Internet sites, and/or videos
  • samples of dirt and of compost (may have students bring in samples, if appropriate)
  • hand-held magnifiers or microscopes and slides
  • a copy of Handout One: How Can We Learn about Composting? for each student
Home Connection 

Have the students ask their family members for suggestions for service projects they might be interested in helping with related to food waste and composting. Assign as homework an activity from Handout One: How Can We Learn about Composting?

Bibliography 

Literature Books about Compost 

  • Compost! Growing Gardens From Your Garbage by Linda Glaser: ISBN-10: 0761300309   ISBN-13: 978-0761300304
  •  Composting: Nature's Recyclers by  Robin Koontz  : ISBN-13: 978-1404822009   ISBN-10: 1404822003 
  • A Handful of Dirt by Raymond Bial : ISBN-10: 0802786987 ISBN-13: 978-0802786982
 Information about Compost
 
Videos about Compost:

Instructions

Print
  1. Teacher Note: The purpose of this class period is for students to make a further investigation of composting. According to resources available in your community, this day may include a fact-finding trip to a compost facility, guided student research by asking groups of students to find the answer to specific questions on the KWL chart (see Bibliographical References), a speaker from a compost facility or from a garden club, or a combination of these strategies. This research and discovery might extend to additional class periods. See Handout One: How Can We Learn About Composting? for additional ideas for research activities. Be sure that some form of the following questions, and the answers, appear on the KWL by the time students complete their investigation discussion: What is composting? How does composting work? Why should you compost? Where can composting be done? What can and cannot be composted? How long does it take before the composted material can be used? How can the material (by-product) from composting be used? How can a school, family, or community begin composting?

    During this study of composting, it is highly recommended that students have the opportunity to observe decomposition in action. This could be done in several ways using the plans for "Building a Soda Bottle Bioreactor" found at http://compost.css.cornell.edu/soda.html: the teacher could construct a Soda Bottle Bioreactor as a class demonstration using food scrapes gathered by the students in the school lunch room; groups of students could construct bioreactors in class using donated materials; or the instructions could be distributed to each student with a request for volunteers to build the bioreactors at home and bring them to class to share.

    Day One

    Anticipatory Set: Read one of the literature books (see Materials) on composting to the class. Ask the students to listen for answers to questions that are on the KWL chart from the previous lesson. Note on the chart any answers they discover from the reading. During the book discussion with the learners, infuse these words/phrases into the conversation,as appropriate, to help the learners understand the motivation for concern and action to reduce, reuse and recycle: environmental stewards; philanthropy; philanthropist; giving time, talent and treasure; common good.

  2. Ask students to keep the questions they have generated in mind as they further investigate compost through a field trip, viewing videos, and/or teacher-directed research activities.

  3. At the end of the class period, ask students to share their most interesting findings. Add to the “L” section of the KWL chart, as appropriate.

  4. When discussing the benefits of composting, remind the learners of the definition of environmental stewardship and help the students understand environmental stewardship as an act of philanthropy - giving time, talent and treasure for the common good.

  5. Day Two Anticipatory Set: Tell the students that as they continue to learn about compost, they should also be thinking about how they can use this information in planning action for the common good related to food waste composting. Tell the students that the video they will be viewing is an example of how some restaurant owners are acting as environmental stewards by composting food waste.

  6. Show the students this video about the efforts of a restaurant to compost food waste.

  7. Ask the students how a similar food-waste program might work in their school or community. Allow time for the students to brainstorm ideas of how they might take action to make this happen and to brainstorm other service projects they might do that use the information and skills they have learned. Record all ideas to save for a future discussion.

  8. Arrange the students in small groups. Give each group a sample of dirt and a sample of compost, magnifiers or a microscope and slides. Ask the students to examine the samples and especially note how they look the same and how they look different. Remind the students to keep in mind the vocabulary words (the icons from the previous lesson should still be posted in the classroom). Ask them to relate what they are seeing to those words.

  9. After the groups have had time to observe the samples, draw a large open (bubble letter)"H" on the display area to help the students compare and contrast their observations of the samples. Label one leg of the H "Dirt" and the other leg "Compost." List student descriptions of each on the legs of the H if it applies only to that sample. List the student descriptive words on the cross bar of the H if the description applies to both samples.

  10. Return to the brainstormed list of projects the students could do with their new knowledge about composting. If not suggested by the students, the teacher might suggest the following projects to add to the list:

    • Develop a system to collect school food waste and create a school compost pile; include a plan for using or distributing the compost to someone who needs it.
    • Create a demonstration of their knowledge (brochure, presentation, display) about food waste and composting. Determine an appropriate audience and venue to share the information.
    • Write a letter to government official advocating for composting food waste; include facts learned.
    • Create a school-wide challenge for students and their families to compost in their homes.
  11. Tell the students that their homework is to discuss the possible projects with family members and ask for their comments or additional ideas.

Assessment 

Evaluate student participation in research, discussions, and the compare/contrast activity.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.1 Define philanthropy as the giving and sharing of time, talent, or treasure intended for the common good.
      2. Benchmark E.3 Recognize that citizens have a responsibility for the common good as defined by democratic principles.
    2. Standard DP 02. Roles of Government, Business, and Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.6 Explain why acting philanthropically is good for the community, state, nation, or world.
    3. Standard DP 06. Role of Family in Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.2 Identify examples of families supporting giving and sharing.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 07. Skills of Civic Engagement
      1. Benchmark E.1 Explore and research issues and present solutions using communication tools.
      2. Benchmark E.2 Discuss an issue affecting the common good in the classroom or school and demonstrate respect and courtesy for differing opinions.
      3. Benchmark E.3 Participate in acts of democratic citizenship in the classroom or school, such as voting, group problem solving, classroom governance or elections.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.1 Describe one reason why a person might give or volunteer.
      2. Benchmark E.3 Define stewardship and give examples.
      3. Benchmark E.4 Give an example of how citizens act for the common good.
      4. Benchmark E.5 Give examples of actions students can take to improve the common good and list or describe responsibilities that go with those actions.
  4. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 01. Needs Assessment
      1. Benchmark E.2 Research the need in the school, neighborhood, local community, state, nation, or world.