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Population Education


K, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th



Resource Types

  • Experiments
  • Lesson Plans
  • Worksheets
  • Activity - Outdoors

Regional Focus




Scraps Into Soil

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Population Connection

  • This lesson plan provides instructions for a composting experiment that investigates the decomposition of organic and inorganic waste. 
  • Students will gather materials, observe how they decompose over time, differentiate between natural and human-made products, explain the difference in decomposition rates between the two, and explain the importance of composting to reduce landfill waste. 
  • This resource includes a student worksheet to help students collect data, extension activities, and discussion questions.
Teaching Tips


  • This experiment is a great way for students to observe the process of decomposition.
  • The step-by-step instructions are clear and easy to follow.

Additional Prerequisites

  • To view this lesson plan, teachers need to download the PDF file. To download the file, educators must provide an email address. 
  • Materials needed for this activity include 1/2 gallon plastic milk jugs with caps, scissors, masking tape or duct tape, soil from outside with no worms or bugs, compostable items, and spoons. 
  • This experiment takes about 3 weeks, so teachers should plan accordingly. 
  • The link to instructions for vermicomposting on page 5 is broken.


  • Teachers can create a word wall with pictures and definitions of vocabulary words such as decomposition, composting, organic waste, and inorganic waste.
  • Teachers can use the provided student worksheet or science notebooks to help students collect data as they observe the different stages of decomposition. Using a digital camera or an instant camera, students can add pictures of the compost jugs to their notes. 
  • At the end of the experiment, teachers can assess student learning by doing the activity in the Measuring Learning section. Students can choose to make a persuasive flyer or a digital presentation. 
  • Similar resources include this digital picture book about waste disposal, this timelapse video of a worm-based compost bin, and this video about food waste and the climate. 
Scientist Notes
The activities in the resource will guide students to differentiate and measure the decomposition rates from natural and anthropogenic sources. This resource is ideal for teaching.
  • Science and Engineering
    • ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
      • 5-ESS3-1 Obtain and combine information about ways individual communities use science ideas to protect the Earth’s resources and environment.
    • LS2: Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
      • 5-LS2-1 Develop a model to describe the movement of matter among plants, animals, decomposers, and the environment.
    • PS1: Matter and Its Interactions
      • 2-PS1-1 Plan and conduct an investigation to describe and classify different kinds of materials by their observable properties.
      • 2-PS1-2 Analyze data obtained from testing different materials to determine which materials have the properties that are best suited for an intended purpose.
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