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Compost in a bottle

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empty clear 2 liter plastic soda bottle, 2 cups of fruit/vegetable scraps cut up, 1 cup of grass clippings and leaves, 2 cups of garden soil, 1 tablespoon fertilizer, 1 cup of torn newspaper, spray bottle with water, spoons, packing tape, permanent marker


LEARNING OBJECTIVE:  To teach young children about reducing and reusing food waste, and how food scraps can be turned into something useful for the environment.  This is great during an overall theme on conservation and recycling or during a project that involves gardening.  Children will also learn some great vocabulary words like compost, conservation, decompose.

This is a great science project to do in your classroom that children can observe over the course of a few weeks.   For a couple of days, have children place their leftover fruit and vegetable scraps from their lunches into a container (or ask for these items from home).  

Start by cutting an empty plastic soda bottle in half (or using a plastic bottle that has a wide opening).  Have children help you tear strips of newspaper.  Then, layer the bottle with soil - and then layer all the materials in this order:

  • soil
  • fruit/vegetable scraps
  • fertilizer
  • leaves & grass
  • soil
  • fertilizer
  • newspaper
  • soil
  • fertilizer
  • fruit/vegetable scraps
  • soil
  • fertilizer

Be sure to spray soil with water as you layer (children will love taking turns with the spray bottle!).  Allow children to help you fill the bottle with the fruit and vegetable pieces and newspaper.  When finished, tape the top of the bottle onto the base (or tape closed your opening).  Mark the height of the compost on the bottle with a marker.  Put the bottle in a sunny place.

Every week for 3-4 weeks, mark the soil level changes.  If the compost seems too dry, remove tape and spray with water.  If it seems too moist, remove the tape to let it dry out a little. 

When all the materials have decomposed, use it in a school garden (or donate it to a local farm for their use).  This is a great learning experience for everyone! 

-- Idea learned at LISC "Greening your Early Childhood Center" workshop - idea shared by East Bay Community Action Program, Newport, RI
(photos from project by Kelli Gilliland and Elaine Caputo)

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